The YWCA NWT has launched a fundraising campaign to build more housing units for families in downtown Yellowknife.
The non-profit announced the fundraising campaign – titled Buy a Brick, Build a Home – in a press release Monday, outlining a goal to start construction beside its current transitional housing facility known as Lynn’s Place by March 2022.
Donations to the Buy a Brick campaign can be made online. The campaign will be open for donations until the organization meets its $200,000 goal.
The new building will have 21 units that are a mix of transitional and emergency housing for families fleeing domestic violence, experiencing homelessness, or are at risk of homelessness, as well as onsite staff to provide support services.
The total estimated building cost is $12,080,000. The YWCA said it aims to raise $200,000 through the campaign and is looking to form partnerships with both the territorial and city government so it can apply for the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, a program offered by the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
“The lack of affordable housing for families and for women leaving an abusive relationship is at crisis levels across the territory, and we’re seeing an unprecedented level of people coming to us who are staying in unsuitable or unsafe housing because they have nowhere else to go,” executive director Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay stated in the release.
“Family homelessness is real in this city and the Covid-19 pandemic has made this even worse – this building will help to fill a crucial housing gap by providing affordable, supportive housing for women and their children.”
The organization’s new campaign comes after it lost a bid for funds through the Rapid Housing Initiative in March. A number of NWT projects were denied cash because the GNWT had failed to spend its existing $60 million pot of federal funding.
The territory has since committed to spending all of the $60 million this year.
In January, the YWCA made a public plea for immediate and significant investments in affordable housing from all levels of government, stating homelessness in the territory is at “crisis levels.”
“A lot of the focus has been placed on single adult homelessness and the government is, to some extent, not really seeing the seriousness of family homelessness,” Dumbuya-Sesay told Cabin Radio at the time.
“Many people are finding themselves in unsafe situations because they don’t have a place of their own. That is still a reality for many families. Because you don’t see them on the streets, does not mean they’re not homeless.”
After a fire at the Rockhill apartment complex in 2018 destroyed 33 YWCA units, the organization has primarily been assisting families with housing by signing onto rental units and paying rental arrears and outstanding bills – activities Dumbuya-Sesay said are “not a sustainable long-term solution for clients or staff.”