The Spruce Bough transitional housing facility in June 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Following months of concern about how a Yellowknife supported living and managed alcohol program would continue without long-term funding, the NWT has agreed to find more money.
The Department of Health and Social Services says it now has an agreement with the Yellowknife Women’s Society to provide $1.5 million to support Spruce Bough’s operations in 2022-2023.
The department has also established data reporting requirements and a monitoring approach for the facility, to be implemented by the women’s society.
Spruce Bough – located in the former Arnica Inn and run by the women’s society – first opened in March 2020 as an isolation centre for people experiencing homelessness. It has since expanded to include a managed alcohol program, meals, and medical outreach services.
Concerns about funding for the project were first raised in 2021, as emergency pandemic money provided by partners – including the Department of Health and Social Services – was set to run out on September 30.
At the time, the women’s centre and Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson called on the territorial government to commit long-term funding to keep Spruce Bough’s doors open.
Minister of Health and Social Services Julie Green, however, initially said that while she “recognized the value” of the program, the women’s society should look for additional cash from the territory’s housing corporation or the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation rather than her department.
The health department and housing corporation share responsibility for addressing homelessness in the territory. Housing NWT is responsible for overnight sheltering while the department has historically taken the lead on day sheltering.
The NWT government is currently working on a territory-wide alcohol strategy and medical detox program, although the territory says capacity challenges have delayed that program’s rollout.