A downtown business owner told city councillors he wants a temporary women's shelter to open next door to his coffee shop, despite the potential for lost business.
The Yellowknife Women's Society is preparing to extensively renovate its women's shelter on Franklin Avenue, which will require temporarily relocating the shelter's occupants downtown.
On Monday, Yellowknife's mayor and council debated the planned relocation of the shelter to the former Safe Harbour day shelter, on 49 Street.
"Since the day centre closed, our business has increased substantially," Patrick Scott – owner of Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀ – said in a presentation to councillors.
The Safe Harbour day centre was relocated to 50 Street last September. Scott acknowledged that Birchwood's products have improved and rivals like the Fat Fox Café had closed, but said the old shelter's relocation remained an important factor.
The coffee company's patio was rarely used when the Safe Harbour day shelter was open, he said. After it closed, Scott says the patio became a popular spot for patrons.
Though he feels his business may lose customers if the women's shelter temporarily relocates next-door, Scott said he was adamant in supporting that relocation.
"I will not stand here and object to it because I think they're more important than our business," he told councillors.
"They're trying to put their lives back together," he said. "We need to heal our community.
"I know these women need a place to stay. I'm surprised there are no other facilities in Yellowknife when there are lots of vacancies," Scott added. "I'm very surprised that women in crisis are being put in a despicable building."
'Not an ideal location'
Councillor Stacie Smith also raised concerns about the safety of the women who will be staying at the shelter. The Yellowknife Women's Society said last week the building can be brought up to standard with some minor renovations.
In response to a question from Councillor Robin Williams, Rob Coolen – the project manager for the society's renovation work – said 14 to 16 of the current shelter's residents are long-term.
"We do deal with day-to-day emergencies, but it's a low percentage that come into the facility," said Coolen.
"It's not an ideal location, we fully understand that," he continued – adding the society could find no other available location that suited the needs of the shelter.
The society is planning to double-staff the facility for 24 hours a day, Coolen told council. While there are no plans at present to hire a security guard, security cameras will be installed and RCMP will be called when needed, he said.
Councillors voted in favour of allowing the shelter to be housed temporarily at the former Safe Harbour building, with the condition that it will end by March 30, 2020. Councillor Stacie Smith voted in opposition, saying local businesses downtown would be impacted. "As we are a city that's trying to grown and revitalize and aid our small businesses, I find it very disheartening that we would approve permits such as this, regardless of it's temporary...use."
Councillors also instructed the city to put in place a good neighbour agreement for the facility.