Money well spent?

An emergency youth shelter could have saved Justin Jim, says his 17-year-old cousin as she warms up at Blue Feather Youth Centre on Tuesday afternoon.

An emergency youth shelter could have saved Justin Jim, says his 17-year-old cousin as she warms up at Blue Feather Youth Centre on Tuesday afternoon.

A number of years ago, Justin had been drinking and was scared to go home, said Tamara Jim.

“He was afraid he’d get in trouble for drinking.”

It was March.

“Justin ended up climbing the clay cliffs, passed out and froze to death.”

He was 16.

Five days after they became available, Tamara still hadn’t heard about two emergency beds at alcohol and drug services, for homeless youth ages 17 to 20.

Youth under 17 will be directed to child and family services. Or simply taken home.

Health gave Skookum Jim Friendship Centre $191,000 to run the four-month pilot.

The money is mainly for worker salaries, said Health spokesperson Pat Living. It will also cover Skookum’s car rental and cellphone costs.

Four workers, two per shift, are on call from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. seven days a week.

That’s roughly $11,000 per worker, per month.

Staff will carry a cellphone. Youth can call and, if they fit the bill, will get a bed.

The on-call workers can go home and sleep, as long as they’re carrying their cellphone, said Skookum outreach worker Viola Papequash on Tuesday.

The News asked both Health and Skookum’s executive director Michelle Kolla for a breakdown of how the money will be spent.

There has been no response.

The pilot program, which may also use beds at Kaushee’s Place, started January 25th.

So far, no youth have called the service.

“I wouldn’t want to go there because it’s a detox,” said Tamara.

“I wouldn’t like the atmosphere, with a bunch of drunk people around.”

“I don’t think anyone would want to go to the detox,” said James, a 20-year-old youth at Blue Feather.

“It’s retarded — who would want to go to detox to sleep — you go to detox to detox.”

Some youth might be too scared to call, said Jackie, who has struggled with homelessness in the past.

“The first time I went to the (Salvation Army shelter), I was afraid they’d say, ‘No.’”

If she was really desperate, Amber Jerome would call and ask for a bed, she said.

“But it would be uncomfortable,” said the 17-year-old.

“Everybody goes there to stop drinking — it would be weird to just go there to sleep.”

The emergency beds will be used to evaluate the number of youth who need shelter, said Health and Social Services Minister Brad Cathers.

But it’s not a good indicator, said Blue Feather executive director Vicki Durrant on Thursday.

“From working with youth, I know it takes a long time to develop trust,” she said. “And if they don’t feel safe, they’re not going to call.”

Beds at alcohol and drug services may provide support for some youth, said Durrant.

“But this project should not be used as an indictor — it’s not accurate — it’s short-term.

“It’s like putting a thermometer in a house and asking what the temperature is outside.”

In October, the Yukon government approached Durrant about re-opening the Roadhouse as an interim youth shelter, she said.

Blue Feather put in a proposal.

A month later, an ad hoc committee, which included Council of Yukon First Nations, Skookum, government reps and Durrant, examined possible shelter locations.

The Roadhouse was shot down.

It was too close to bars and offsales outlets.

Durrant, who once ran a shelter there, discussed the location with the RCMP.

They assured her it was a suitable area.

But it didn’t pan out.

The Roadhouse lacked political support from the chiefs, said Council of Yukon First Nations elder and youth advisor Joan Graham, who sat on the ad hoc committee.

But Graham’s not convinced beds at alcohol and drug services are much better.

“I’m not expecting this (pilot project) will have a big uptake,” she said.

“I don’t think youth will want to go to these places — I wouldn’t want to go to any of these places.

“But if I was freezing and needed a bed ….”

And establishing an emergency youth shelter might not have worked either, she added.

“There is no ideal answer.”

This isn’t Vancouver, said Graham.

“We don’t have people bundled in sleeping bags on the streets — it’s hard to get the numbers and lots of youth are couch surfing — this hides the problem.”

If kids are couch surfing, they might not use a shelter, said Graham.

Durrant has talked about buying the old Whitehorse hostel, formerly Hide on Jeckell, with the Council of Yukon First Nations.

It’s for sale, comes with beds and has the right zoning.

It’s perfect, said Durrant, who has sent out feelers to Yukon First Nation governments.

But to proceed she needs a commitment from the territory.

The property would work, said Graham, citing past issues with zoning, renovations and the need for separate bathrooms for men and women.

Ideally, it would be more than just an emergency shelter for youth, said Graham.

“The other problem is affordable housing.”

The proposed shelter could also have beds for youth in transition and run programs to help young people learn how to manage their own apartments, she said.

Hide on Jeckell is selling for just over $400,000.

So far, Health has given $191,000 to Skookum to run its four-month pilot and $36,000 to Blue Feather to extend its hours of operation.

That’s $227,000.

On Thursday, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations gave $50,000 to address youth homelessness in Whitehorse.

There are a many ways the money could be spent, including investing in a youth shelter, youth programming and research, according to the release.

Youth homelessness is a complex problem requiring the involvement of all Yukon First Nations, said Graham.

First Nations need to determine how many youth are in town and how many are couch surfing, she said.

“And the new (pilot project) will give us some stats — good or bad.

“But it should just be an interim measure, while we develop a good plan.”

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

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.

Most Read