The Yukon’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act has put the cart before the horse, according to two local organizations.
The Yukon has enacted a law that can evict troublemakers from their houses with five day’s notice.
But the territory lacks the social services to support them in finding new housing or treatment options, said Yukon Status of Women Council co-ordinator Charlotte Hrenchuk.
There is a shortage of affordable housing in Whitehorse.
There are only 10 beds in the Salvation Army’s adult emergency shelter — and there is a lineup to get in.
Kaushee’s Place is meant for female victims of domestic violence.
And there is no emergency shelter for kids, or mothers with children.
“There’s no place for somebody to go,” said Hrenchuk.
“Given the situation here, the spectre of homelessness is not illusory, it’s very real.”
The upcoming Canada Winter Games is making housing units even scarcer.
“Some hotels aren’t renting anything long term at the moment because they’re all fully booked for the Canada Games,” said Yukon Family Services outreach counselor Nancy McInnis.
This week, Justice department investigators, with the co-operation of a local landlord, ousted tenants with a suspected drug connection in a Kopper King neighbourhood.
Along with the eviction notice, the tenants were handed a “package” of information detailing social support services in the city.
On Tuesday afternoon the News requested a copy of that “package.”
It received a single sheet of paper with two items typed on it: social assistance and drug and alcohol services, brief descriptions of each and their phone numbers.
On Wednesday at noon, the News received a revised “package,” which had been delivered to the evictees on Wednesday morning.
It was considerably more detailed.
It had a full-page description of social assistance and it listed phone numbers for organizations such as the hospital and Salvation Army.
Although the second package was more comprehensive, it’s still not as effective as having a person consult with the evictees about their rights and choices, said Hrenchuk.
“Leaving someone with a few pieces of paper with a dizzying amount of numbers and criteria on them is only going to make a person feel more desperate,” she said.
And, by not having the social supports in place, the government is missing a golden opportunity to put the evictees on a new path, said McInnis.
“There should be professionals involved to help them through that crisis and also to embrace that moment of crisis as an opportunity to discuss change.
“We know that when a person is in crisis that is a window of opportunity to discuss treatment, increasing safety and doing things to improve their lives.”
“To hand somebody a piece of paper is not a warm and inviting way to invite them into treatment,” added Hrenchuk.
When the legislation was proposed, stakeholders met to discuss the legislation.
Hrenchuk and reps from other concerned groups met with Justice and Health and Social Services officials.
“We tried to come up with preventative strategies to prevent homelessness.”
“We were very disappointed that nothing came out of those meetings — neither department has seemed to come up with a concrete plan to assist people who have been living in these houses and may be victims themselves,” said Hrenchuk.
Ideally there would have been more collaboration with organizations ahead of time.
“I’m really disappointed that there haven’t been some preventative steps taken,” said Hrenchuk.
Overall, this case is a learning experience, said Hrenchuk.
Meanwhile, both Justice and Health and Social Services have expressed an interest in collaborating more with NGOs.
And that’s a positive sign for the future, according to both Hrenchuk and McInnis.
“It’s our hope we could meet in the near future and discuss how to approach this in a better way next time,” said Hrenchuk.
The package given to evictees will get better, said Justice department spokesperson Dan Cable.
“It will be improved over time and translated into French.
“Keep in mind we only opened the office six weeks ago, we had a lot of forms to create in that time.
“We’re going as fast as we possibly can and it’s evolving,” he added.
Under the act, the director, Lesley Carberry, “shall make a reasonable effort” to help innocent evictees find a place to stay and give them information about community resources.
But that section does not apply to any tenant involved with the suspected illegal activities.
The act also stipulates that if there are children living in the building, the director must notify Child and Family Services.