More supportive housing in the works

Thanks to more federal money, the territory is making good on its election promise to provide supportive housing for people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Thanks to more federal money, the territory is making good on its election promise to provide supportive housing for people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Fourteen units will be added to an existing duplex across from the High Country Inn on Fourth Avenue. The plan, proposed by Options for Independence, beat out two other ideas for the federal cash.

The territory is matching the nearly $3 million from Ottawa. This includes $2 million the housing corporation is fronting to Options for Independence as a mortgage lender.

“It’s taken a long time to get this project to a point where we could make a decision on it,” said Dale Kozmen, vice-president of the Yukon Housing Corporation. “It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of frustration at the same time.”

The new bachelor and one-bedroom units are scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2013. The whole complex should house around 26 people, although accommodations for couples could increase that number.

Residents will be able to rely on support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said James Smith, vice-president of Options for Independence.

The precise type of programming and support to be offered remains unclear. “We’re still working out the details,” said Smith.

The territory announced a similar arrangement with Options for Independence in September 2011. The government planned to give Options for Independence $2 million then, to build 18 units. But the funding was frozen four months later, when Options for Independence was accused of running afoul of the Societies Act.

“They formed a new board of directors and held an AGM in early July,” said Scott Kent, the minister responsible for the housing corporation. “Any concerns that the government had, or Health and Social Services, or the housing corporation had with Options for Independence were addressed and we’re ready to move forward.”

Mike McCann, executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, expressed his support for the new board.

“There are some very good people there now,” he said. “They’re cautious people who’ve been involved with the social service and FASD work for a long time and are not the types that would proceed unless they were confident they could do something.”

In December, the NDP’s critic for Health and Social Services Jan Stick, said the group’s investigation was spurred by allegations of unfair evictions and unsafe living conditions. But the Official Opposition never had proof that these allegations were true, said Kate White, the NDP’s member for Takhini-Kopper King, on Thursday.

McCann expects FASSY and Options for Independence will work together on the new housing and programming – some of the current residents in the existing duplex are FASSY clients, he said.

“My understanding is that essentially they’re taking the roof off of that building and going up two floors,” he said. “I think we have a ways to go in the community, but it’s a start.”

None of the territory’s investment in this project will come from the $13 million remaining from the Northern Housing Trust money, which it received from Ottawa between 2008 and 2010.

“What’s happening with that $13 million?” asked White. “How much interest has that accrued?”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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