Imagine being forced out of your home with nothing but the clothes on your back, and at best maybe a small bag of belongings.
That’s what happens to many of the Yukon women who need emergency shelter at Kaushee’s Place and the soon-to-be-opened Betty’s Haven, according to Barbara McInerney, the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society executive director.
“Lots of women don’t have anything when they move in,” she said. “There’s little items – we need anything like towels and sheets and cutlery … those kinds of things really help. Furnishings like good beds and nice solid dressers, so anything that you can think of that you deem necessary in an apartment.”
Kaushee’s Place is an emergency shelter and transitional home for women fleeing violence and abusive relationships. The shelter has a free 30-day emergency option, as well as five more permanent apartments with six-month leases at Yukon Housing rates.
When McInerney started working there in 2000, she said many women would use Kaushee’s Place as a safe space to decompress and get their lives in order after leaving dangerous partners. Some would only stay a few days or weeks before moving into more permanent housing, but in recent years the Whitehorse housing crisis has forced women to stay longer.
“Because of the lack of affordable housing and some of the difficulty with getting court processes through to the point where there’s safety and stability, many times we’re extending those six-month (leases),” McInerney said.
The shelter has been over capacity for the past two weeks, and that’s not uncommon, she said.
Betty’s Haven features 10 long-term apartments. McInerney hopes it will relieve much of the pressure on Kaushee’s Place.
“Having space at the emergency shelter, sometimes it comes right down to lethality,” McInerney said. “It’s whether you live or die. For the women that don’t have those physical safety risks, if you don’t have the emergency shelter, you’re still going to have other deaths of your spirit.”
Betty’s Haven has been in the works since McInerney arrived in 2000, and it’s been a long battle to secure the funding required.
In 2005, McInerney started working with Kobayashi + Zedda Architects to plan a building that met all the unique safety requirements for a women’s shelter – everything from the shape and location of the windows to the types of locks and doorframes used. Those plans were expected to cost $3.2 million to build, but the government never funded it.
Then, in 2007, the territorial government committed $4.5 million to the project and the building was redesigned from the ground up.
Now it’s finally almost done. Betty’s Haven is expected to be finished in August and ready for its first tenants in September, but an unfurnished apartment is a cold comfort when women are looking for a home.
So the transitional home society is holding a fundraiser on Friday, April 26 at the Old Fire Hall to help make the Betty’s Haven house a home.
There will be a silent auction and live music by Fawn Fritzen, Natalie Edelson and Kim Beggs. Betty Sjodin – the building’s namesake – will be on hand to speak about the importance of the new housing.
“We also want to raise some money to do a bit outside in the way of playground furnishings for the kids,” McInerney said.
Violence affects women from all demographics, McInerney said.
“It’s across the board. It’s not limited to young or old. It’s interesting because it almost comes in themes. We’ll have a whole rash of people who are trying to do division of assets (with their former partners), or custody and access so we’ll be really busy with advocating with those processes.
“Sometimes we’ll have lots of single women in. Single women for social housing are probably the hardest to house. Women with one or two children seem to get housing much quicker through Yukon Housing,” she said.
Contact Jesse Winter at