The former Coast High Country Inn in Whitehorse will become 20 temporary housing units starting mid-February.
According to a joint release from the Yukon government and the Safe at Home Society on Jan. 30, the Safe at Home Society will offer short-term supportive housing at 4051 Fourth Ave. beginning next month.
“Safe at Home is thrilled to put this building to use … by directly supporting individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” Kate Mechan, the Safe at Home Society’s executive director, said in the release.
“A foundation of this temporary program will be to work with tenants to obtain permanent housing. In the background, Safe at Home will work with Government of Yukon and other funders to ensure the future state of the project will be realized.”
Safe at Home will be administering and operating the temporary program at the former hotel. According to the release, the City of Whitehorse issued a temporary occupancy permit in January so the organization can occupy the space until June 30.
Mechan previously told the News the temporary program can’t begin until the Safe at Home Society is “confident” it has the appropriate staff-to-tenant ratios for 24/7 operations.
In the release, the Yukon government is providing the Safe at Home Society with money for “capital improvements necessary for the temporary supportive housing” and is “finalizing” an agreement to provide 24/7 on-site support. Communications director Carleen Kerr, who works in the department of Health and Social Services, said the Yukon Housing Corporation has put more than $142,000 towards the temporary housing project.
“We are pleased to support the Safe at Home Society in providing Yukoners with wrap-around housing with services this winter,” Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee said in the release.
“We will continue to work with the Safe at Home Society and other partners on new, innovative ways to address homelessness in our community.”
The temporary housing units will be handed out based on the by-name list, which is Safe at Home Society’s real-time list of individuals experiencing homelessness.
“It is not a wait list but is rather about making a best possible match based on each person’s needs and the available housing units,” reads Safe at Home Society’s website.
The Safe at Home Society appears on the City of Whitehorse’s tax lien summary for more than $69,000 owed in property taxes and a penalty of close to $7,000 plus interest, for a total of $76,705.12. Mechan said the Safe at Home Society is working with the city on its development incentive request, which is intended to encourage the development of smaller, denser housing forms, targeted density and rental or supportive housing projects.
The long-term intention is to turn the hotel into a permanent supportive housing project.
An August 20222 information sheet from the Yukon government indicates the inn will eventually be turned into 55 homes for women, youth and Indigenous Yukoners. An Oct. 28, 2022, release from Safe at Home Society indicates there could be up to 67 units.
The Safe at Home Society’s website states the permanent project will be geared to individuals who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
“Transforming a former commercial hotel into 55 self-contained suites, the project will provide affordable, secure and supportive housing for a mixed demographic of individuals,” reads the website.
“Support staff will be on-site 24/7. Tenants will have access to crisis intervention, guest management, counselling and safety planning.”
Each suite will come furnished, offer a kitchenette and a private bathroom, and have access to laundry and common areas.
“A look at the by-name list tells us that there are currently 195 actively homeless individuals and families in Whitehorse. The majority do not require an intensive level of support, such as what a Housing First model would offer. They may, however, require a higher level of support than a private rental of Yukon Housing [Corporation] would offer,” reads the website.
“This is where 4051 Fourth Ave., as a permanent supportive housing model, has situated itself within the housing continuum in Whitehorse.”
As previously reported by the News, the Yukon Legislative Assembly heard the Yukon Party question the housing project’s viability, budget and delay during the fall 2022 sitting.
In a Jan. 31, 2022, joint release, the federal and territorial governments previously indicated the affordable housing project was expected to be completed in fall 2022.
The housing project is being paid for by the federal Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the territorial government’s Yukon Housing Corporation.
The joint release states the project will get $10 million through the northern portion of the national housing co-investment fund and $5 million under the expanded rapid housing initiative for a total of $15 million in federal money for renovating and refreshing the former inn.
“To date, we put $1.02 million toward this project,” Ranj Pillai, the territorial minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, said Oct. 27 in the legislature.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org