A small solution for a big housing problem

Blood Ties Four Directions is looking to Whitehorse for a little help to get its tiny house project off the ground.

Blood Ties Four Directions is looking to Whitehorse for a little help to get its tiny house project off the ground.

The non-profit group, which helps Yukoners living with HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C, wants to build a small house downtown to provide some stable, transitional housing for some of its clients.

To make that happen it needs the city’s help.

Blood Ties is asking the city to wave the $15,000 it costs to hook the building up to water and sewer.

“We have somebody from the private sector willing to lease us their backyard,” said Heather Ashthorn, the organization’s housing navigator. “It’s in a perfect location.”

Finding a place downtown that can be used for both commercial and supportive-housing initiatives was difficult, she said.

“There’s actually a small window but we found a place,” said Ashthorn. “They’re offering us a short term lease and really low rent but they’re not really in a position to put in the $15,000 worth of infrastructure for a water and sewer hookup.”

On Monday Ashthorn and Blood Ties executive director Patricia Bacon appeared before council asking for help.

“It’s not a project that has been done in any other major municipality,” Ashthorn told council. “It’s an opportunity for the City of Whitehorse to be on the cutting edge.”

“Even though it’s a demonstration house, the project would be fulfilling a real need,” added Bacon.

Blood Ties helps about 200 clients who are living with HIV AIDS and Hepatitis C.

More than half of those clients, 60 to 70 per cent, are inadequately housed, Bacon said.

“People are not able to get treatment without adequate housing,” she said.

Blood Ties also has a lot of clients who are currently incarcerated at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

One of the hopes for this project is that the house could be used to help former inmates make the transition back into society, said Ashthorn.

Right now there are no transitional housing options for people leaving custody.

“They’re literally dumped out of the gate and there’s nowhere for them to go,” said Ashthorn.

Trying to find a place to live from inside the jail is next to impossible, she said.

“There’s no way to set anything up, so they end up on the streets or on somebody’s couch,” said Ashthorn. “It’s these things that generally lead people back to what got them put into WCC in the first place.”

The 200-square-foot house would cost about $30,000 to build and roughly $3,000 a year to operate and maintain.

The plans for the tiny house have been in the works for some time.

Originally Blood Ties planned to build the house as a demonstration project for the Poverty and Homeless Action Week last fall.

“We wanted to demonstrate to the public how easily, efficiently and inexpensively a shelter for one person can go up,” said Ashthorn.

Blood Ties collected donations, recruited volunteer labour and materials for the project.

“We were really set to go but we ran into a setback with city bylaw,” said Ashthorn.

Under the National Building Code – which the city is obliged to follow – if a house has access to the municipal water and sewer system it has to be tied into that infrastructure.

With that increased cost, Blood Ties was forced to put its plans on hold.

Late last year the nonprofit made an application to the city to see if there were any municipal grants available to fund a project like this, but there wasn’t anything available.

Now Blood Ties is now appealing directly to mayor and council for help.

“The city really needs to see something done,” said Ashthorn. “It would be great for the city to see that yes, the housing crisis is being addressed one small project at a time.”

The tiny house project is scheduled to go back before council in two weeks.

The city will make its final decision on Jan. 30.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read