Yellowknife’s mayor says an announcement about the future of plans to open a temporary shelter in the city will be made on Friday afternoon.
Rebecca Alty was speaking during a question-and-answer session immediately following an appearance at a virtual meeting of the Rotary Club of Yellowknife on Thursday.
Asked if she had spoken with NWT health minister Julie Green since city council rejected a proposal to open a shelter downtown, Alty told the audience: “Stay tuned for an announcement tomorrow at one o’clock about what the plan is.”
The mayor said she would be joined by Green and Shane Thompson, the minister of municipal and community affairs, at that announcement. After this article was first published, the territorial government confirmed an announcement would be made on Friday at 1pm.
City council’s decision to vote against approving a permit for a temporary day shelter at the corner of Franklin Avenue and 48 Street leaves the territorial government in almost the exact situation that transpired in the fall of 2020.
A year ago, city council rejected use of the downtown Mine Rescue Building as a shelter, in part because of concerns expressed by nearby businesses. The territorial government ultimately decided to declare a local emergency, handing Paulie Chinna – minister of municipal and community affairs at the time – the power to seize the building and open a shelter despite council’s decision.
The presence of Thompson, Chinna’s successor, at Friday’s announcement suggests identical action may be on the way this fall. However, two residents who attended Green’s Wednesday constituency meeting said she had suggested a different location would be announced. The mayor made no further comment regarding the detail to come on Friday.
Green has maintained the former Legion building at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and 48 Street is the only realistic location at which a shelter can be opened before time runs out and Yellowknife’s winter sets in. The territorial government says many other options have been considered and cannot work.
The health minister says the existing permanent shelter on 50 Street doesn’t have enough capacity during the pandemic to accommodate everyone who needs its supports. Businesses near the former Legion building have, however, opposed the territory’s plan, expressing concern for the safety of their staff and customers.
City councillors voted four-to-three to deny permission for a shelter to open there for the next three years, until a permanent building opens in 2024. The GNWT wants that permanent facility to be built on 51 Street and become a successor to the 50 Street shelter, offering more space and more amenities.
James O’Connor contributed reporting. O’Connor is on the executive of the Rotary Club of Yellowknife and attended the meeting at which Alty made the remarks reported.