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YK shelter becomes month-long isolation centre for 30 people

Yellowknife's downtown day shelter and sobering centre is pictured on the morning of April 15, 2019
Yellowknife's downtown day shelter and sobering centre is pictured on the morning of April 15, 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The downtown day shelter and sobering centre on Yellowknife’s 50 Street will be home to 30 “high-risk homeless adults” for the next month, its operator said.

The NWT Disabilities Council, which runs the facility, said the 30 people had “agreed to not leave the site for 30 days.” The building will be closed to anyone else.

The council said turning the facility into a home for those 30 people over the next month would “ensure that they are not exposed” to Covid-19 during the ongoing pandemic.

In a letter to the council’s partners, shared with Cabin Radio, the council says the change will come into effect at 7am on Friday.



The council calls the arrangement “emergency sheltering-in-place housing.”

“We have been working diligently with our partners to put this housing arrangement into place as quickly as possible,” the letter states, “to decrease risk of exposure to the virus and decrease further strain on limited healthcare resources.”

The 30 people will be “living permanently on our site” for the rest of April, the letter continues.

With 30 considered the facility’s current capacity, anyone else needing help will be redirected to the Salvation Army’s temporary day centre.



In bold, the letter concludes: “Due to capacity limitations of the centre and the need to facilitate a virus-free isolation space for the people we are supporting, we will not be able to accept any person who is not part of our established cohort.”

Angst at the shelter

The council had for weeks been working on ways to provide some form of self-isolation for Yellowknifers who don’t have homes, should they need it.

Many of the services that ordinarily support the city’s vulnerable population are currently either suspended or running with a limited capacity.

“We have a population struggling with a lot of different things,” said Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, last week.

“And they have all this going on, on top of the anxiety about this illness and the lack of a lot of resources.”

Denning is working to convert the city’s Arnica Inn hotel into temporary housing during the pandemic.

More: When you can’t just stay at home – vulnerable YK residents and Covid-19

Last week, before Thursday’s announcement of the shelter’s new role, NWT Disabilities Council executive director Denise McKee had described “a lot of angst” among people at the 50 Street building.

“They realize, because of a lot of their health issues, they’re at the highest risk,” McKee told Cabin Radio at the time. 

“We’re trying to, in the best way, keep that community safe and keep it so there are no positive cases entering into that population.”