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Health

NWTDC says it couldn’t agree to six-month YK shelter extension


The NWT Disabilities Council will “look to new projects” after deciding to end its operation of Yellowknife’s downtown day shelter and sobering centre.

The 50 Street facility will be run by the NWT’s health authority from April 1, when the council’s contract with the authority ends. The council rejected a request from the authority to extend that contract by six months while a new operator was found.

The health authority says it will close the day shelter – relying instead on a new shelter near to the territory’s legislature – but maintain the sobering centre.

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In a Thursday statement that challenged some assertions made by the health authority earlier in the week, the council – or NWTDC – said it had spent time trying to hold a conversation with the authority about the facility’s future.

“From early on, the NWTDC had been reaching out to engage with the NTHSSA to discuss future plans with respect to the ending of the contribution agreement,” the council wrote, using an acronym for the health authority and referring to its two-year agreement to run the facility.

“As the ending of the contribution agreement further approached, the NWTDC increased its efforts to engage with the NTHSSA, explaining that there were legal and employment obligations that needed to be considered if the contribution agreement was not going to be extended for another two years, as provided for under the terms of the contribution agreement.”

The council said the health authority’s request for a six-month extension raised questions related to its legal responsibilities under the Employment Standards Act and “the logistics of securing services for a further six-month period.”

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“After careful and heartfelt consideration, the board of directors decided to allow the contribution agreement to come to an end on March 31, 2022,” the council wrote.

The council thanked its facility’s staff and hailed them as “professionals who showed up every day to work in one of the highest-risk settings as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic … meeting the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in the community.”

Half a dozen people with experience of working at the facility raised concerns about alleged mismanagement last year. The health authority initially promised to investigate those concerns but, ultimately, instead only investigated the whistleblowers.

Neither the authority nor the council made mention of that episode in statements this week.

The council instead pointed to its record of operating the facility “in various forms for six years,” adding that the group had stepped in “when there was a risk of there being no day shelter in Yellowknife.”

Now, the council said, it will focus on “new projects that directly align” with its strategic plan and support “the more than 9,000 people living with disability throughout the Northwest Territories.”

“The NWTDC will continue to support service users experiencing homelessness who identify with a disability through its other services,” the council said in its statement.

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