People living in the Chilkoot Trail Inn have been ordered to vacate after the city’s fire department issued a closure order due to numerous building code safety violations.
“This action, while regrettable, was required to address significant deficiencies affecting fire and life safety within this facility. Our focus is and will always be the safety of our citizens, and actions such as this are a last resort only when other measures are not appropriate or have failed,” wrote Whitehorse fire Chief Jason Everitt in an email.
Everitt said in the past 12 years the city has responded to 21 events, including four separate fires, at the Chilkoot Trail Inn.
The most recent fire occurred on Oct. 18, 2021, and sent a woman to hospital, in addition to smoke and water damage to the second-floor unit.
Everitt said as a result of that most recent fire, the city issued an “Order to Remedy” on Nov. 11, requiring repairs to be made due to multiple fire, building and electrical code violations that made the building unsafe.
“While attempting to work with the owners to resolve, conditions have continued to worsen,” wrote Everitt in an email.
As a result of the deteriorating conditions, he said a closure order was issued on Jan. 11. The order allows four weeks for the relocation of residents. A resident in the building said people were given eviction notices to be out by Feb. 11.
Lisa Wiklund, a communications analyst with Health and Social Services, said the government is “committed to supporting those impacted” by working with community partners like the Safe at Home Society.
Kate Mechan, with Safe at Home, said around 30 to 50 people are regularly living out of the hotel. Many are social assistance clients with few other options for housing.
After receiving eviction notices on Tuesday, many residents of the hotel are now scrambling to figure out where they will live next month. Multiple service providers are now trying to connect people with options, but Mechan said the lack of affordable housing and long list of people experiencing homeless makes it a difficult situation.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “We’re already at max capacity because the numbers of individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness are just increasing over time, because there are no affordable housing options.”
She noted that people living in the Chilkoot were already considered homeless. Hotel living, where people may not have access to a kitchen or month-to-month security, is both costly and unstable.
The Chilkoot Inn has also served as a home for people in need of support. Mechan said the evictions could cause a dispersal of high-risk clients and make outreach more difficult.
“There isn’t availability of permanent supportive housing options at this time for people,” she said. “I’d ask the community at large ‘What do you value? What kind of a community you want to live in?’ When floods happened and people were displaced, we helped them. I don’t see it as any different.”
Everitt said the closure order takes place at midnight on Feb. 12 and after which only the owners and authorised workers will be permitted on site “until satisfactory repairs have been completed.”
Repairs that bring the building up to code will be required before it can be reopened.
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