The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) succeeded in its bid for federal funding which will be used to build an emergency shelter in Whitehorse for Yukon First Nations women and children escaping family violence.
The shelter project was announced on June 25.
“Today is an incredible day in many ways. But today, we’re very thankful for this announcement. It’s always been something that we’ve had to deal with as First Nations is barriers, especially when it comes to helping and supporting our people,” said CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston.
CYFN Executive Director Shadelle Chambers said the opening of the shelter will help address those barriers.
“Right now, there is not an Indigenous-led shelter in the Yukon. This is not to say that the current shelters don’t support and Indigenous women aren’t accessing those services. But ideally, what we’ve conceptualized is to have culturally appropriate space,” Chambers said.
Johnston said the shelter will support people for generations to come and he looks forward to the long-term outcomes of the project. He said concerns around family wellness and mental health have only been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shelter CYFN is planning will be a 15,000 square foot structure, which will be divided into 15 units with a total of 32 beds.
The shelter will be built outside downtown Whitehorse on land donated by the Yukon government. Construction is expected to begin early next spring with completion of the shelter expected for spring or summer 2023.
Along with providing a shelter to fulfill women and children’s basic needs, Johnston and Chambers said the facility will also be equipped to offer culturally relevant supports and provide enriching programs and opportunities. Chambers highlighted plans for the facility to offer therapeutic services, art programs and traditional activities such as processing moose meat and hides.
The shelter will be unique in its Indigenous-led approach.
Yukon First Nations staff will fill the available positions — everything from admin, to shelter support workers, to the executive director of the organization.
On June 17, the federal government announced funding for the shelter. The CYFN shelter is one of 12 nationwide that also received funds. The CYFN got $6.5 million in capital funding for construction and $1.7 million to cover operations.
Chambers said that while the shelter in Whitehorse will address immediate infrastructure gap, there is still work to be done, especially in rural communities. To that end, she said that the shelter in Whitehorse could serve as a hub in support of projects like shelters and safe houses in rural communities.
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