From drug den to family home

The joy in Jon Travis's voice can be heard over the phone. "The fact that we're getting this home is amazing," said the full time cook and father of three. "It doesn't seem real yet.

The joy in Jon Travis’s voice can be heard over the phone.

“The fact that we’re getting this home is amazing,” said the full time cook and father of three. “It doesn’t seem real yet. It seems too good to be true”

It’s all thanks to the work of Habitat for Humanity, which has turned the site of a notorious drug house into affordable housing for families in need.

Jon and his wife applied more than a year ago for one of the units in the aptly named Phoenix Rising triplex. Next week they move in.

With a young family, finding a suitable place to rent was a challenge.

“As soon as people hear ‘kids’ they think that the home’s going to get destroyed, and nobody gets back to you,” said Travis.

The family was outgrowing its current digs.

“To get something like this now is just great,” he said.

Travis and his wife will actually own the unit through an interest-free loan offered by Habitat for Humanity.

“Both myself and my wife work full time and we get by fine,” said Travis. “But actually saving enough money for a down payment on a home was just unobtainable. This really is a miracle.”

The cost of building the home is kept affordable through volunteer labour.

The recipients of the homes must give back to the community by volunteering 500 hours of “sweat equity” to a charitable project.

But there’s more to the Phoenix Rising project than simply helping out some families in need.

It will also rehabilitate a notorious property in the neighbourhood.

“There was an infamous drug house on the site,” said Habitat for Humanity secretary Michael Purves.

When the owner passed away the house was inherited by her daughter. She sold the property to the Yukon Housing Corporation at a discount with the stipulation the land be given to Habitat for Humanity.

“She wanted to build a house there so it would no longer be associated with all the bad press,” said Purves.

Yukon Housing gave the land to the charity, but added a stipulation of its own – the triplex had to be constructed as a “super green” building.

As such, the building was built to exacting standards to conserve energy.

The walls are 18-inches thick and the windows have quadruple panes, which gives the triplex an insulation value far beyond the building code standard.

“Yukon Housing gave extra money to do it like this,” said Stu Mackay, the project manager of Phoenix Rising. “They were trying to use the house as an experiment to see what the real value is, the real payback.”

Mackay is the former dean of professional studies at Yukon College. After retiring, he enrolled in the college’s carpentry course specifically to work on the Habitat for Humanity project.

“I really wanted to get involved with this project and it seemed like an easy way to do it,” said Mackay when asked why he returned to the college as a student.

After completing the carpentry course, Mackay stayed on to work as the project manager.

Yukon College has become Habitat for Humanity’s partner, providing much of the labour for all three of its housing projects in Whitehorse.

For Phoenix Rising, Habitat for Humanity also formed a partnership with the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

Under the supervision of WCC staff and a journeyman carpenter, selected inmates were given the opportunity to work on the building.

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful partnership,” said Mackay. “Some of the real positive things are the fellows who chose to use this and move on to professional trades training.”

The inmates were not allowed to give interviews at the site, but said they enjoyed working on the building.

They also appreciated the free coffee.

With the Phoenix Rising complete, Habitat for Humanity will begin another project in the Ingram Subdivision.

Travis will be there to lend a hand.

“I’m just so elated to be given this opportunity. To be able to give back to Habitat is a great opportunity right there, too.”

The open house is on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at 810 Wheeler.

Contact Josh Kerr at

Just Posted

The Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park will open on May 13. Joel Krahn/Yukon News
Whitehorse’s Fireweed Market opens May 13

The Fireweed Market will return with ‘exciting’ new and returning vendors

Ron Rousseau holds a sign saying ‘It’s time for a cultural shift’ during the Yukoners: Raise Your Voice Against Misogyny rally on May 11. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Protest held to condemn Yukon Party MLAs’ texts

A rally was held outside of legislature to condemn the inappropriate texts messages of Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko.


Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Most Read