Home Base Yellowknife, along with the YWCA NWT, is set to move back into the city-owned Mine Rescue Building.
For the past 20 years, SideDoor Ministries – which recently rebranded to Home Base Yellowknife – has used the downtown building to house its youth resource centre.
The organization won a bid to continue leasing the space from the city, alongside the YWCA, last year. However, the NWT government declared a local state of emergency in November to use the building as a temporary day shelter. The territory said the move was necessary as capacity at the permanent day shelter and sobering centre is reduced due to pandemic restrictions, and it had run out of time and options as winter weather hit.
The YWCA and Home Base have since been using space above the post office on Franklin Avenue to house youth and family programming while awaiting a permanent location.
The local state of emergency came to an end on May 31 and the territorial government vacated the Mine Rescue Building, giving shelter users little notice. According to Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty, the NWT government would have needed to apply for a development permit from the city to keep using the space, which the territory opted against due to the length of the public engagement and appeals process.
Now, Home Base and YWCA want to move back into the city-owned building. Councillors appear set to approve their lease for five years, with the option of renewal for an additional five years.
While the lease for the building had previously been 10 years with the option of renewal for an additional 10 years, city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett noted that would mean an additional 20 years without an open and transparent process to ensure the services being offered are relevant to the community’s needs. Director of community services Grant White added there is a demand for these kinds of spaces in the city, and a 10-year lease would ensure the facility is not “locked up” should other non-government organizations express interest.
Councillors will vote on whether to approve the lease at their next regular council meeting on June 28.
Since vacating the Mine Rescue Building, the NWT government has provided reduced replacement services for shelter users outside Aspen Apartments, although those were put on hold last week while the territory awaits a city-issued permit. Where shelter services will move when the temperature drops remains unclear, but territorial and city officials have said they are working together on short and long-term solutions.
Asked by Cabin Radio when capacity will be able to increase at shelters, a spokesperson for the NWT’s Covid-19 Secretariat said that under the territory’s revised pandemic recovery plan, indoor gatherings will be allowed to increase when the territory has reached 66 to 75-percent full vaccination coverage or 75-percent partial vaccination coverage.