Two Yellowknife-based organizations are seeking help after being left without a space by the decision to turn a downtown building into an emergency day shelter.
The Mine Rescue Building was to have become home to family programming for the YWCA NWT and youth programming for SideDoor – a former occupant of the building – under an agreement with the City of Yellowknife.
But the GNWT declared a local emergency in Yellowknife on November 6 in order to acquire use of the building as a shelter, solving the months-long dilemma of where to place such a facility.
Local business owners and city council had originally opposed that move but the Mine Rescue Building became the shelter location of choice after no suitable alternatives could be found.
However, that now means the problem of finding a space rests with the YWCA NWT and SideDoor instead of the GNWT.
The two groups say the NWT government is trying to help them find somewhere to run programming, but nothing has turned up. They are now asking the public for offers or suggestions.
“We were just in the process of getting the lease signed [for the Mine Rescue Building] and doing some of the last minute paperwork when all of this came up,” said YWCA NWT executive director Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay last week. She says she discovered the building was being taken over by the GNWT through news reports.
“We felt very disappointed, to be honest that this decision just came out without really giving us a heads-up or time to really find an option,” Dumbuya-Sesay told Cabin Radio last week.
A section of the Mine Rescue Building was to be used for YWCA NWT’s family centre program, a drop-in service for parents and children aged up to five, which helps to develop parenting skills and socialize children. Programming for children aged eight to 17 would have focused on youth empowerment and violence prevention.
SideDoor planned to use an area of the building as an evening drop-in centre and emergency overnight shelter.
“We’re struggling to find a programming space. Because of that, we’re not able to start our regular programming,” said Dumbuya-Sesay.
“We’re trying to make do with what we have, but we’re really at risk of losing funding if we don’t get space.”
Downtown location needed
Tammy Roberts, youth charity SideDoor’s new executive director, said GNWT staff had been “supportive” in trying to help the groups but no alternatives had been found.
“So now we’re looking to go out to the community and business owners downtown to see if anybody can find a space for us,” Roberts said.
Listen: Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay and Tammy Roberts explained their search for a new space on Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News – December 4, 2020.
The two groups expect to be able to access the Mine Rescue Building after May, when the temporary shelter is likely to close down. Its primary purpose is to provide extra shelter space in the cold winter months while Covid-19 restrictions limit capacity at other shelters.
“We are hoping to move back [into the Mine Rescue Building] by the end of May. But, you know, it might need some renovations after it’s been a day shelter. So we’re looking for at least a six-month lease,” said Roberts.
“It doesn’t have to be in the same building. We’re not a joint program, we were just going to share the building. So it could be two separate spaces or it could be one that we could share – just something so we can get our programs running.”
Both groups are searching for building space that features an open area, offices, and a kitchen if available.
“We want something downtown,” said Roberts. “That’s where our youth are and that’s where our other programs are.”
Call Roberts at (867) 765-8045 if you’re able to help.