The NWT’s health minister says a temporary day shelter announced on Friday afternoon has opened within 72 hours. The downtown Yellowknife building has an initial capacity of 15 people.
Health minister Julie Green said on Twitter the Mine Rescue Building opened as a shelter at 7am. Green said its capacity will increase to 25 people “when any kinks are worked out.”
Staff worked throughout the weekend to prepare the building, which was acquired by the territorial government after it declared a local emergency in Yellowknife late last week.
Declaring that emergency gave municipal and community affairs minister Paulie Chinna the power to co-opt the building.
The City of Yellowknife had asked the NWT government to intervene – despite councillors rejecting an earlier request from the GNWT to use the same building – when the search for another shelter location became increasingly frantic as winter arrived.
Chinna’s intervention using emergency powers circumvents city rules that stop council reconsidering its rejection of the site within six months of that decision.
Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty feared any other option would take weeks or months to establish, yet winter temperatures had already set in.
Local businesses had expressed concern about the impact of a nearby shelter on staff and customers. Alty last week told Cabin Radio the territorial government was now proposing enough suitable measures – such as security staff and fencing – to mitigate those impacts.
A temporary day shelter is needed because capacity at the regular shelter, on 50 Street, has been diminished by Covid-19 public health measures.
The GNWT estimated around 40 people were being left with no daytime shelter as a result.