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CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents
A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

The John Howard Society and Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) will take over operations of the Housing First residence on Wood Street.

The takeover will come into effect on April 6.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Council of Yukon First Nations and Yukon government to assume operations of the Housing First residence in Whitehorse,” said Mark Miller, John Howard Society Pacific CEO, in a press release.

“We respect the great work of the Housing First residence team over the past year, and are excited to contribute to this well-established program.

“We are honoured to bring our shared values and extensive experience in housing, supervision, and low-barrier harm reduction services to support residents and the community.”

CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston said he is enthusiastic about the changeover.

“We look forward to introducing holistic and culturally-informed approaches to complement the John Howard Society’s strength in program delivery for at-risk persons,” Johnston said.

The Housing First residence is a low-barrier housing facility opened to alleviate demand for shelter beds in Whitehorse and provide longer-term housing solutions for those in need.

The territorial government has been operating the Housing First residence since it opened in February 2020.

Residents are chosen for the building through a by-name list built by the government’s Housing and Community Outreach Unit.

CYFN’s partnership is intended to ensure that support in the Housing First residence is culturally appropriate for its many Indigenous tenants, according to the Yukon government.

According to a press release, management of the building was always intended for a transfer to a non-profit organization. The Housing First residence currently has 18 tenants living in its 16 units. The transition of operations will “have no impact” on residents and service delivery will continue uninterrupted, the government says.

The John Howard Society and CYFN entered into a partnership to collaborate on services on Feb. 9. The John Howard Society also currently operates the territory’s transition home for men released from custody, located in a separate unit of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

According to a press release issued last month, the two organizations have also issued joint submissions to provide services to justice-involved women; the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter; and the Preventing and Addressing Family Violence Program.

The partnership intends to provide better services to First Nations people with complex needs. The agreement outlined five key areas of collaboration: helping First Nations people with complex needs integrate into the community through “coordination, collaboration, advocacy and policy implementation”; collaborating on programming in the Yukon; creating services that are culturally safe; information-sharing challenges to providing service; and consulting on operational challenges and critical incidents.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at