Whitehorse’s new Salvation Army building officially opens

‘It will be life-changing for a lot of people in our community’

Whitehorse’s new Salvation Army building will finally be opening its doors to the city’s needy.

“Today I see new partnerships forming… People starting to talk about how to build a better community, a better Yukon and a better Whitehorse,” Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said at the opening ceremony Oct. 6, which was held in the centre’s kitchen and dining area and attended by at least 100 people.

“It will be life-changing for a lot of people in our community…. (It will be a facility) where no one will ever be turned away.”

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, Premier Sandy Silver, Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston, NDP Leader Liz Hanson, Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis and Whitehorse Salvation Army executive director Ian McKenzie were among the local leaders in attendance. Salvation Army Colonel Lee Graves and Major Ron Cartmell were also present.

Johnston also presented Graves a wooden healing spirit carving as a symbol of thanks, healing and of recognition of the importance of the land to Indigenous people.

Officially called the Salvation Army Centre of Hope, the new facility is located at Alexander Street and Fourth Avenue and provides much-needed relief to the Salvation Army’s existing shelter on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Black Street, which has been over capacity for years.

While the old shelter contained only 14 beds which filled up every night and forced staff to lay out mats on the floor for anyone else who arrived afterwards, the Centre of Hope contains 25 beds as well as 22 transitional housing apartments.

“As the name suggests, it’ll be a source of hope and comfort for our fellow Canadians who find themselves on the street and in need of shelter,” Bagnell said. Silver also spoke, thanking the community for the “Herculean” effort put into the project.

The federal and territorial governments spent more than $14 million on the centre, which will also offer services like hot meals and culturally-relevant support programming for vulnerable populations.

Those services will be gradually phased in, with the emergency shelter and meal operations scheduled to start by the end of October and the transitional housing and drop-in programs to begin in early 2018.

The centre was originally announced back in March 2015 and scheduled to open the fall of 2016, but faced delays when, during demolition and construction, more contamination than expected was found in the soil. The site formerly housed a gas station and auto-repair shop and crews had to clean up fuel, solvents and asbestos, among other things.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com