The Northwest Territories government says there are still some Yellowknife hotel rooms available for evacuees hit by flooding who haven’t yet found temporary accommodation.
For days online, evacuees or their acquaintances have described situations in which people either could not find hotel rooms or said they had been asked to leave because of other bookings.
Late on Saturday evening, the NWT government stated: “Some have suggested hotel rooms are not available in Yellowknife. This is not true.
“Rooms are available, along with significant additional capacity at the Yellowknife multiplex. Territorial staff are assisting folks in connecting with hotels if they wish to access them.”
Even so, in the same update, the territory provided a list of available accommodation that suggested finding hotel space may require some effort.
In listing nine Yellowknife accommodation providers, the GNWT said six were fully booked for at least part of the week ahead (some of those bookings being evacuees) and two could not be reached. One, the Quality Inn, reported having significant availability.
“Additional spaces are also available free of charge for those wishing to camp at North Slave or South Slave territorial campgrounds,” the territory stated.
In the past two days, some South Slave residents reporting friends’ struggles to find rooms have blamed events like the Prince of Wales’ forthcoming visit or an NWT Literacy Council training session being held in Yellowknife this coming week.
Prince Charles and Camilla are due in Yellowknife for a visit lasting less than a day on Thursday, May 19. Neither Charles nor Camilla are staying overnight, though such tours usually involve an advance party that may require accommodation. The number of rooms being used could not be immediately confirmed, nor the dates of those bookings, if any.
The NWT Literacy Council said it had received no contact from the hotel being used for its training course that runs from Monday to Wednesday this week.
“We apologize to anyone that was told they had to leave the hotel on our behalf,” Katie Johnson, a spokesperson for the literacy council, told Cabin Radio by phone on Sunday morning.
Johnson said the council is using 10 rooms, some of which were already occupied by attendees travelling from smaller communities by the time a full evacuation was ordered in Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
She said the council had understood from the GNWT over the past week that hotel rooms and other accommodation for evacuees remained available.
“Based on that, we decided to go forward with our 10 rooms,” said Johnson.
“If we had been contacted to let us know there was a real need, we definitely could have looked at any options. As far as we knew, even by end of day Friday, this wasn’t a concern that we needed to change things around.”
Referring to posts on social media that she feared misrepresented the council’s position, Johnson said no NWT Literacy Council representative had made any statements online about the matter.
“Anything that may appear to have come from the literacy council is not related to us,” she said. “That would only come from our official page.”
Yellowknife faced a housing shortage even prior to the flooding of the past week and arrival of hundreds of evacuees.
Flooding in Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation is among the worst on record and a return home seems unlikely for many families in the short term. Last week, Yellowknife’s city manager acknowledged the city would need to find medium-term solutions for some evacuees.
As of Friday afternoon, Yellowknife was housing 510 evacuees – 200 at the multiplex, which has been turned into an evacuation centre with cots and food, and 300 either staying with friends or family or in hotels.
Caitrin Pilkington and Megan Miskiman contributed reporting.