A new home away from home

The black mould and blind corners that characterized the old Whitehorse children's receiving home have finally been replaced.

The black mould and blind corners that characterized the old Whitehorse children’s receiving home have finally been replaced.

A sterile, one-storey, Super Green structure has gone up on the barren lot where the old home sat at the corner of Hanson and Fifth.

“The previous building was 35 years old, and looked it,” said Yukon Housing Minister Jim Kenyon, during the ribbon-cutting on Wednesday.

The new $1.1 million building has a wide hall with six bedrooms off it, giving it the clinical air of a medical centre.

The government-required sprinkler system, glass-covered fire extinguishers and alarm system add to the sterile appearance.

“But once there’s furniture and everything, it will feel more like a home,” said children’s assessment and treatment services manager Nancy Duesener.

Then the alarm went off.

“Someone must have opened a window,” she said.

Each of the six rooms has shelving, a built-in desk and a window looking out on the gravel yard.

The landscaping will be done in the next four to six weeks, said Yukon Housing vice-president Dale Kozmen.

But the boys will be moving in within 10 days.

The old children’s receiving home was co-ed and held up to 18 children and youth.

After it was demolished, the girls and boys were separated and moved into temporary rental housing.

“We found that separating them by gender created a calmer environment and the kids are more focused,” said Duesener.

And if brothers and sisters end up separated because of this gender divide, Health and Social Services will ensure lots of visits, she said.

The girls will remain in their rental, which underwent $125,000 in renovations.

“We moved in last summer after the renos were done,” said girls’ receiving home supervisor Allison Beckman.

“It’s really nice.”

The boys got the new housing because the other home is more conducive to females, added Duesener.

Both homes act as a temporary residence for children and youth who’ve been removed from abusive family situations.

The intended length of stay is three months, while the children are assessed and either returned to family, or placed in foster care.

But sometimes children end up at the receiving home more than a year.

“Some take longer to assess,” said Duesener. “And we have to make appropriate placements.”

The boys can’t wait to move in, said boys’ receiving home supervisor Tammy Sehn.

One of the youth was ironing his dress shirt, to come to the community meeting that afternoon, she said.

The staff and boys are hosting a meeting to maintain a positive relationship with the community, said Sehn.

The youth helped pick out the furniture and even chose fabric patterns for the curtains and bedding, she added.

“They’re excited.”

The new home, built by Ketza Construction, is so energy efficient it could be heated by two cats, joked Kenyon.

And it shouldn’t be plagued by the mould problems the old building faced, he said.

Money for the project came from the federal stimulus fund, through Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

The home will hold up to six boys.

And through two solid, locking doors, there are two bare rooms that will be used as stabilization units, for youth who are a danger to themselves or others.

“They will just have the basics,” said Sehn. “Because we want to keep them safe and support them.”

These units will have their own entrance, but can also be accessed from the boys’ side.

“You can look at this building and see we are putting the kids first,” she said.

That afternoon, just before the community meeting was slated to start, a young man stood outside the new home.

He smoothed his bleached hair and straightened his pink tie.

Then, with a smile, he went in to the new home to meet his neighbours.

Contact Genesee Keevil at