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NDP wants old nurses' residence to house homeless

Liz Hanson says the four-year-planned demolition of the Whitehorse hospital's old residence is "not acceptable.

Liz Hanson says the four-year-planned demolition of the Whitehorse hospital’s old residence is “not acceptable.”

The NDP leader was shocked to discover the building at 1 Hospital Road was being prepped for demolition this week.

After all the tenants moved out, the Yukon Hospital Corporation told Northwestel to cut all the cable and phone lines, the telco confirmed Tuesday.

But the government should not demolish a public building that could provide shelter to people who need it this winter, said Hanson.

“There are no emergency accommodations in this town,” she said. “This at least has running water, windows and toilets, which would be a nice alternative to the tents people are living in.”

The former residence is more than 60 years old, said Yukon Hospital Corporation CEO Joe MacGillivray.

And the building, which is often referred to as “the gulag,” has a leaky roof, was built with asbestos and its heating system needs to be replaced, he added.

“To be frank, we’re having a hard time heating it right now,” he said. “When we initially were looking at building a new residence, we looked at the old residence and there was a decision made at that time that it would cost too much to actually put it back into repair.”

The building is scheduled to be torn down before the end of the year. The corporation still has to tender the demolition and get a few more permits, said MacGillivray.

This will grant Hanson’s wish for the government to hold off demolition until the election is over, at least, to allow the newly elected government to make a final decision on whether the building can be used as a temporary shelter.

Even when hypothetical scenarios, in which the territory would foot the heating bill, were posed to MacGillivray, he seemed reluctant to entertain using the building as a temporary homeless shelter.

“Obviously, if there was a request, if there was an interest in using it for some other use, but we did look at it initially and it was deemed that it was not suitable for repair at this point in time,” he said. “We looked at the building and we came to the conclusion that it made sense to replace it rather than to put more money into it.”

The hospital’s new residence for visiting medical specialists, temporary and summer relief staff, medical residents, nursing students and other health-care professionals, started being used in March.

Called Crocus Ridge, it has two floors, the top with 34 residence units and the bottom with office space. It cost $17.8 million to build. The hospital corporation owns and manages all buildings located on the Whitehorse hospital campus.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at