Tiny home unveiling in Whitehorse on Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

New tiny homes in Whitehorse are ready to go

The ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Steve Cardiff Community happened on Friday

It takes a lot of coffee to make a community happen — that’s what Patricia Bacon told spectators during a Jan. 19 ribbon-cutting for the Steve Cardiff Tiny House Community.

Over cups and cups and cups of the stuff, Bacon, executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions, talked to dozens of people about what her organization could do to help address homelessness.

“Homelessness is a wicked problem to solve,” she said. “From the layperson we’ve heard so many times ‘why can’t we just build more housing?’ But for those in the know, we know that the fix is not as simple as a hammer and a nail. So for me to be standing here today for a ribbon-cutting for new housing for the homeless, well it’s just the sheer magnitude of the work that goes into it, to be here today.”

The Steve Cardiff Community expands on a previous project of Blood Ties — the Steve Cardiff Tiny House.

From 2012 to 2016, the 240-square foot house (designed by Tony Zedda) was located on an undeveloped piece of land on Hawkins Street.

During that time, it served as a transitional home for five different people.

In 2016, when a larger-scale affordable housing project (also designed by Zedda) broke ground, the tiny house was put in storage until the community alternative was arrived at, and construction started in the summer of 2018. The original tiny house is now one of five at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Jarvis Street in downtown Whitehorse.

Bacon said the project, which was funded by the Yukon government, private investors, the Yukon Housing Corporation and more, won’t solve the problem of homelessness, but she said it’s a step.

“There’s a number of people in our community who are homeless or housing-insecure and so this is one project that’s going to help with that,” Bacon said. “It’s not the end-all solution, and tiny houses are not necessarily the right kind of housing for every person who’s homeless, and so we do recognize that there’s a need for additional housing and housing projects to be done as well. And maybe perhaps in the future, Blood Ties will be part of some of those other housing projects. For now though, we’re going to ride the glory of this one for at least this month.”

Roughly 50 people attended the ribbon-cutting and toured the units, each of which has a loft sleeping area, an open-concept kitchen and living room, and a three-piece bathroom.

“This is an example of what happens when a group of people called a community come together and try to think about their fellow human being and how to help them fund housing,” said Zedda. “It’s through this effort of community that we have this today. And I think this is an example of what we can do elsewhere downtown and in the community to provide housing for those in need.”

Bacon said the focus of this particular project was on tiny homes because, while there is a place for 20-unit apartment buildings, complexes that large are also not a one-size-fits-all solution, and they can sometimes work against the idea that all people belong in all communities.

“Blood Ties cares a lot about not ghettoizing people who are vulnerable or living in poverty,” she said. “So about five on one lot is good, but, you know, we’re not necessarily feeling that we should congest and put all people who are poor, or all people who use drugs in one apartment building. It further ghettoizes them and marginalizes them.”

Ann Smith, a Kwanlin Dün First Nation elder, echoed that sentiment when she explained that the name Four Directions (aside from the original Cardiff house, each of the four new homes is named for a cardinal direction) had been chosen because the idea of the four directions forms the basis of KDFN’s spiritual knowledge.

“This is how we follow our spirituality,” she told the crowd.

“The four colours can represent the four directions of which way the wind blows. Also, it can mean the difference of all humankind because we all come from different nationalities, so we use that mainly to help our people in terms of how you can live your life right, and live it really simple, and live it so that way you’ll have a basis to follow.”

Bacon said residents will be chosen with the help of an assessment tool meant to identify residents who are most likely to succeed in this particular housing type. Not everyone who is homeless wants to live in a tiny house, she said. Some people in precarious living situations might need more consistent support than will be offered at the homes, and others might need significantly less. They key is to find residents who are in a position to benefit most from this particular style of housing, she said.

Bacon said she expects people to begin moving into the house in February and March.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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