The NWT’s health authority will on April 1 assume control of Yellowknife’s downtown day shelter and sobering centre from the NWT Disabilities Council.
Services at the centre will change when that shift happens. The health authority will only operate the sobering centre at its existing 50 Street location and will close the day shelter.
That means all day shelter services will be offered from the temporary shelter now operating at the former site of Yellowknife’s visitors’ centre, near the Legislative Assembly.
Day shelters offer somewhere warm for people without homes to spend time during the day, providing facilities like showers, food, and laundry. The sobering centre gives people somewhere safe to sleep off the effects of alcohol and drugs.
The NWT Disabilities Council’s contract to run the 50 Street combined facility expires on March 31 and the process of deciding who will operate the building beyond that point has yet to conclude, the health authority said in a news release on Tuesday. The news release did not include comment from the council, and phones at the council were not immediately answered.
“This change is intended to be in place for six months while a request for proposal process is undertaken to find an operator for the centre,” the authority said.
“Service levels will be maintained and monitored with the ability to expand capacity if required.”
The authority said the change is necessary because managers were “recently made aware that the NWT Disabilities Council did not wish to extend their current operating contract for six months while the RFP process was undertaken.”
Why that process is only now getting under way was not made clear.
Asked why the process had not begun earlier, to ensure continuity of operation with a new contract in place for April 1, a spokesperson said only that the NWT Disabilities Council had been asked to agree to a six-month extension in early January but had responded, declining that request, in late February.
“We would like to thank the NWT Disabilities Council for the service they have provided in delivering this program over the last three years,” the health authority said.
The authority and the council have had a complex relationship during that time.
Last year, after Cabin Radio reported allegations of mismanagement at the centre based on evidence and testimony provided by six people who had worked there, the authority pledged to investigate.
“I want to assure you that this matter is being taken seriously and is being actively investigated by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority,” NWT health and social services minister Julie Green said at the time.
However, a year later, it emerged the authority had in fact done no such thing and instead asked police to investigate the whistleblowers, against whom no charges were ultimately laid.
The NWT Disabilities Council has maintained that it “takes the care, welfare, safety and security of its staff and clients very seriously and adheres to health and safety legislation and contractual requirements.”
The council has a “clear internal reporting process” when it comes to concerns, executive director Denise McKee said in a statement last year, adding that its managers “respond appropriately and in a timely manner.”