A May 2021 photo of the proposed location of a new wellness and recovery centre in Yellowknife. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Designs are being developed for a wellness and recovery centre intended to replace Yellowknife’s sobering centre and temporary day shelter. When the facility will open isn’t clear.
According to the Department of Health and Social Services, the project is being designed by Taylor Architecture Group based on feedback from service users, non-governmental organizations and an Indigenous advisory board.
While the centre was previously projected to open in 2023, the department subsequently said that date had been pushed back to 2024 due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s stress on territorial resources.
The department now says the opening date is “uncertain.”
The project is under review as construction costs have increased due to factors like supply chain pressures, labour shortages and inflation.
Under current plans, the wellness and recovery centre will differ little from the day shelter and sobering centre beyond providing a bigger, permanent space to house both services. The department said the larger space will allow for group programming and a dedicated space for cultural programming.
The new facility is designed to provide 90 beds in the recovery centre and 59 seats in the day shelter. It will include a dining space, washrooms and showers.
The department axed plans to include an exam room for visiting healthcare professionals to control project costs. Officials said this will not preclude access to on-site clinical services like the outreach nursing model currently being used.
The facility has been designed for construction on a vacant lot on 51 Street, a location that has received a mixed reaction from residents and nearby businesses.
The territorial government said it “remains open to ongoing discussions” about the location of the wellness and recovery centre. The territory said the temporary day shelter’s current location near the legislature, which has been proposed as an alternative site, is “impractical for construction,” pointing to geotechnical conditions that caused structural issues at a former visitors’ centre on the same site. That building was demolished in 2020.
Efforts to provide basic services to some of Yellowknife’s most vulnerable residents faced challenges throughout the pandemic, including opposition to numerous potential locations for a temporary day shelter.
That day shelter, which opened in late 2021 and offers space for 45 people, is currently the only operational day shelter in Yellowknife. The previous permanent day shelter, which shared a 50 Street building with the city’s overnight sobering centre, closed its doors in March. The sobering centre remains open.
The department said the temporary day shelter, set to remain in place until the wellness and recovery centre opens, is currently meeting the needs of shelter users.