Keys to the Arnica Inn were officially handed to the Yellowknife Women’s Society on Wednesday morning, using some unusual social distancing measures.
Outside the Franklin Avenue building, Kathy Yurris – property manager for the TC Group of Companies, which owns the inn – gave the keys to Bree Denning, executive director of the women’s society, via a glove attached to a stick.
In lieu of flowers, Yurris gave a Covid-19 “gift bucket” featuring cleaning and other supplies.
The day marks the fruition of longtime plans to see the 43-room building turned into supportive housing. Those plans were temporarily put on hold in February after the society was unable to secure federal funding.
“This would not have been possible without the community’s support but also TC Group’s willingness to work with us every step of the way to make this a possibility,” Denning said.
“The company’s commitment to this project has been what’s made it possible, because we hit a lot of hiccups in the road and they’ve been willing to be patient and work with us.”
Yurris said: “TC Group of Companies is so pleased with what the Yellowknife Women’s Society is doing. It’s just fantastic.
“We’ve always believed that Arnica is a good place for what their purpose is because … it can get people who need to get started on their feet a little bit of help.”
Quilted Raven donates masks
During the pandemic, the space will be used as an isolation centre for around 25 people experiencing homelessness who are at high risk of complications stemming from Covid-19.
Denning said the society hopes to have people move in within a couple of weeks. The aim, she said, is to help people who are staying at shelters that can’t support self-isolation, easing some of the pressure on those facilities.
“Our shelter is quite busy and I know other shelters might be turning folks away,” she said.
Individual men and women as well as couples and close family members can stay at the isolation centre, Denning said. The women’s society will provide meals and snacks, supplies for beading, sewing and other activities, and managed alcohol and tobacco for those with addictions.
“I know it’s quite hard for people to be alone for that period of time. Isolating with one other person cuts down their risk considerably as well,” Denning said.
Yurris said all rooms at the Arnica Inn have a kitchenette with a counter and either a stove or a microwave and a hot plate. People staying in the building will have access to cable TV and wireless internet.
The Quilted Raven donated 75 face masks to the women’s society on Wednesday morning. The Yellowknife business had asked quilters to help sew masks with an eventual goal of creating 500.
Charlene Adam, owner of the Quilted Raven, left, donates a basket of masks to Bree Denning. Submitted by Kathy Yurris.
To be referred to the new Arnica Inn program, people must fill out an application citing their risk factors which will then be triaged by a physician. Denning said the society has spoken with shelters and people experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife about the plan.
Once the pandemic ends, the building will still be used for supportive housing. Denning noted that’s different from transitional housing, as some people will always need support and there may not be a place for them to transition to.
As for what the building will be renamed, Denning said that’s still in the works.