Petition pushes supportive housing plan

The Northern City Supportive Housing Coalition wants your help. They aren't asking for much. Just a signature.

The Northern City Supportive Housing Coalition wants your help.

They aren’t asking for much. Just a signature.

It’s been seven months since the group of non-profits announced their plans to build a 20-unit supportive housing project in downtown Whitehorse.

They already have a proposed site, design plans and a building team lined up. What’s missing is money. To get that, they need Yukon government support.

The coalition hopes that a show of public support will help their cause. So they’ve begun a petition.

Copies can be found at Baked Cafe, Bent Spoon Cafe, the Salvation Army, the Yukon Status of Women Society and the Second Opinion Society. The deadline to add your name is Saturday.

On Monday, NDP Leader Liz Hanson will table the petition in the legislature. Coalition members hope to collect several hundred names by then.

A petition can also be found online, at www.northerncityhousing.org. But, because Yukon’s legislature doesn’t accept online petitions, these signatures won’t be included with the tabled papers.

The coalition wants to give Whitehorse’s hardest to house a place to live – and drink. It’s a controversial approach that’s bound to attract criticism, which may explain why the government has yet to endorse the idea.

Called Housing First, it challenges the conventional wisdom that many homeless people choose to sleep on the street, and that quitting drinking is primarily a matter of willpower.

It turns out that coping with alcoholism and its attendant ills is a lot easier with a roof over your head.

In Seattle, a similar project was dubbed “Bunks for Drunks” by critics who wondered why the state should subsidize destructive behaviour.

But Seattle now estimates it saves $4 million annually by helping some of the city’s hardest-to-house clients. The coalition believes this approach would save money in Whitehorse also, where hardcore alcoholics threaten to overwhelm the resources of the police, ambulances and emergency room nurses.

In 2009-10, the emergency room faced 1,744 alcohol-related admissions. That’s approximately five each day.

Just 22 clients accounted for one-third of these admissions. Three people were admitted 60 times or more. That’s more than once a week.

The coalition project’s total cost is expected to be $1.8 million. The housing coalition hopes to get half of that from a federal grant that’s being administered by the Yukon Housing Corporation. The remainder would be leveraged from a bank once government funding is in place.

But in order to get the federal grant, the coalition needs to show that it could pay workers at the facility. To do that, it needs to win the support of Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services.

The coalition initially expected it would need an annual operating grant of $250,000. But those costs have nearly doubled, to $488,000, since the coalition began revising its business case with government help to take into account the cost of adequate, 24-hour supervision of the facility.

Whitehorse’s acute housing shortage has also driven up the price of downtown lots, which may throw off their construction estimates.

Bill Thomas, the coalition’s project manager, recently had a “productive meeting” with an assistant deputy minister of Health and vice-president of the housing corporation. He left with the impression that senior staff would soon pass a proposal up to the cabinet table.

The opposition Liberals and NDP have both expressed support for the project. So has city council. But it’s the governing Yukon Party MLAs who will ultimately decide whether the project receives the green light.

Coalition members urge anyone who supports the project to write to their MLA and the premier.

“Time is of the essence,” said coalition member Laird Herbert.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read