The Salvation Army will be closing its Yukon Adult Resource Centre (ARC) in Whitehorse to make room for upcoming upgrades to the Alaska Highway in Hillcrest, possibly as soon as March 31.
The Salvation Army’s regional spokesperson, Major Al Hoeft, confirmed the organization’s decision to permanently shutter the live-in rehabilitative facility for men in an interview Feb. 4.
“We had to make difficult decisions based on this,” Hoeft said, referring to the Yukon government’s highway plan.
“And I mean, you know, that building has been around for a long time, and so we knew at some point even without the highway construction that we would have to make some decision regarding that property and regarding that facility … But with the construction on the highway, it looks like it’s going to force our resource centre to close at this point.”
Hoeft couldn’t provide a finalized closing date yet, but said that the Salvation Army and Yukon government have been working with March 31 with discussions about a possible extension to the end of April.
Department of Justice spokesperson Fiona Azizaj confirmed that timeline in an email Feb. 5, adding that the department was “advised” in late December that the ARC would be ceasing operations.
The Salvation Army has operated the ARC, located on the side of the Alaska Highway between Sumanik Drive and Burns Road, for more than 20 years. The 18-bed facility serves as a live-in rehabilitative centre for men who have recently been released from jail after serving sentences or who are out on bail and require supervision. Many of the beds are contracted to the Yukon government.
“The YARC has positively contributed to a more effective justice system in Yukon by providing supervision for male adults who did not require high security custodial care,” Azizaj wrote.
Hoeft said the ARC has helped “hundreds” of men over the years re-enter the community, and is currently housing 11 residents.
The facility will continue to accept residents and operate “as usual right up until whenever that transition date will be,” he added, and conversations with the Yukon government about what the transition will look like are still underway.
Azizaj wrote that the Yukon government “is exploring all possibilities to maintain this important service for Yukoners.”
The ARC property is owned by the Salvation Army. The organization was still the registered title holder as of the morning of Feb. 5, indicating the Yukon government has not yet purchased the plot. Tax records show the property valued at $334,400 as of 2019.
The upgrades to the Alaska Highway in Hillcrest are part of a larger Yukon government project to improve road safety on a stretch spanning from the Carcross cut-off to the North Klondike Highway.
Hillcrest residents, in particular, have been raising concerns in recent years about the volume of vehicular traffic and the ability for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the highway safely. The upgrades will see that portion of the highway widened as well as the installation of traffic lights, among other things, with with first phase of construction expected to begin in this spring.
According to a draft report the Yukon government submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board on Jan. 2, officials met with businesses that will be affected by construction and the expansion, including the Salvation Army, Tetra Tech, Skyy Hotel and Airport Chalet, from February to December 2019.
The draft report states that “discussions with the Salvation Army indicate that the ARC will be relocated to a more central location that is more conducive to supporting the patrons of the Centre.”
Hoeft told the News that’s no longer the plan, and that when the ARC finally closes its doors, it’ll be for good.
Cost, both in regards to what it would take to relocate the facility as well as long-term funding to keep the program, appear to have been a major factor in the decision.
“Over the years, the Salvation Army has had to invest a lot of national funds into the operation of the ARC and … obviously any time you’re making decision on the future of a program, funding sustainability is going to be an issue, right?” Hoeft said.
“… It has required additional supported funding from outside over the years and whether that was going to be sustainable was part of the question.”
The Yukon government also contributes to the ARC’s funding.
The closing of the ARC will be the second major blow to the Salvation Army’s presence in Whitehorse in recent years; the Yukon government took over operations of the downtown shelter, previously known as the Centre of Hope, last January.
Hoeft, however, said Yukoners should not take this as a sign of the organization retreating from the territory.
“While this particular program might be ending, our service to those in need will continue through our church and our social service … We’re definitely not leaving,” he said.
“… Certainly we are very committed to assessing what the needs of the community might be and finding ways that the Salvation Army can continue to be a part of the future of the community of Whitehorse.”
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