The Yellowknife Women’s Society (YWS) has purchased the former Arnica Inn building after a two-year process.
The building, now known as Spruce Bough, opened in 2020 as a space for people experiencing homelessness to isolate.
Despite calls from the women’s shelter and MLA Rylund Johnson that the Spruce Bough facility needed long-term funding in order to remain operational, it took time to determine which federal and territorial partners would step up to support the shelter. While the territory’s health department eventually injected more cash into the program in 2021, the department’s funding was not meant to be a permanent solution.
Health minister Julie Green said it was not her department’s responsibility to fund the transitional housing project, and said 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.
That’s where funding came from this year, allowing the YWS to purchase the building for $3 million. Of that, $3 million comes from a contribution from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and $620,000 comes from the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, which will go toward future renovations of the space.
The society plans to start renovations this summer, including new siding and windows, accessible ground floor units, and a sprinkler system.
“The Spruce Bough changed my whole way of life”
The Spruce Bough program, which has supported up to 38 residents experiencing homelessness and complex health issues, provides “a home and 24/7 wellness programming to residents,” wrote the YWS in a news release.
“The Spruce Bough changed my whole way of life, I went from being an alcoholic to a sober happy man. It was dark before I lived here, my eyes were open when I arrived,” one resident was quoted as saying.
Another said, “My life is better here then when I was couch surfing. Somebody is always here to talk to me and assist us in our day-to-day needs, even outside of Spruce Bough.
“My mind has been at ease since living here. Staff are here whenever I need, staff don’t treat us differently. We’re normal people here.”