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Housing crisis reaches ‘boiling point’, says Safe At Home director

Kate Mechan speaks to homelessness issue
Unhoused people previously living in hotels are being evicted, leaving advocates scrambling to find short term solutions. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file)

Safe At Home executive director Kate Mechan says efforts are underway to deal with the immediate and long-term issues the unhoused in the city are facing, but the issue has become urgent.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve let this crisis get to a boiling point,” she said in a June 8 interview.

Many have been left with next to no options this summer after being moved out of hotels on June 1. Typically, Robert Service Campground would be used by a number of people for camping, but it is closed while a new building is under construction. Others would have previously camped along the escarpment, which is not safe this year given the recent landslides that have closed off large portions of the escarpment base.

The situation prompted 12 community groups to sign a letter calling on the city to make extraordinary measures in allowing tenting on private property and at sites like Takhini Arena and the campground.

City officials have indicated that Takhini Arena is a possibility under consideration along with some other sites downtown, though Robert Service Campground cannot be used.

Mayor Laura Cabott and Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee met June 7 to discuss the issue with Cabott, indicating a number of short- and medium-term measures are being considered.

The issue also came up at Whitehorse city council’s June 6 meeting, where city administration pointed to work underway to consider the matter. The work of Safe At Home’s community advisory board was also highlighted with officials noting a meeting of the committee set to be held June 9.

Mechan said the meeting is among the regular meetings the committee has, looking at the issue of homelessness and also cited regular meetings of the hotel/motel task force of the committee.

There is an awareness of the urgency and a number of conversations happening with governments, including the Yukon government, First Nations and the city.

“There’s lots of work happening internally,” she said.

Noting there are some ideas circulating on the potential of private lots to be used for tenting, she also stressed the importance of people knowing where they can safely access services.

Mechan also said highlighted the importance of solutions that will work in the long run, noting she doesn’t want short-term measures to come at the expense of long-term solutions.

She urged the community to be compassionate.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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