Seniors’ complex could house homeless

Phil Wallace pays $950 a month for his basement room. And he counts himself lucky. When he first arrived in Whitehorse two years ago, Wallace stayed at the Salvation Army shelter.

Phil Wallace pays $950 a month for his basement room.

And he counts himself lucky.

When he first arrived in Whitehorse two years ago, Wallace stayed at the Salvation Army shelter.

He also spent a few weeks at the Chilkoot Hotel where the rundown rooms are “the size of jail cells” and start at $1050 a month.

Semi-retired, Wallace struggles with heart disease and respiratory illness, making it hard to find steady work.

It was Wallace’s doctor who finally found him the room for $950.

On Thursday morning, Wallace joined downtown Liberal candidate Kirk Cameron in front of the seniors’ housing at 207 Alexander Street.

The men met when Cameron was campaigning.

“We have a very important issue downtown,” said Cameron.

“It’s homelessness.”

Wallace estimates there are roughly 60 people without a place on any given night in Whitehorse.

“But there are only 13 beds at the Salvation Army,” he said.

Cameron has “a practical solution:”

Turn the Alexander Street Residence into a homeless shelter.

The seniors currently living in the 13 units on Alexander will soon be moving to the new Spook Creek complex, said Cameron.

Instead of letting 207 Alexander sit empty it could be renovated and turned into a shelter, he said.

It’s close to the Salvation Army, the food bank and Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, he said.

And the building is the same age as Whitehorse Elementary, said Cameron.

“That’s where my son goes and it’s in good condition.”

It’s also “greener to renovate existing facilities, rather than building new ones,” he said.

The 13 suites could be converted, to house a lot more, added Cameron.

“We have to care for our disadvantaged,” he said.

“And we need to do something right now.”

Campaigning door-to-door on cold, windy days, Cameron couldn’t help thinking about Whitehorse’s homeless.

“I can’t imagine being out walking the streets all day in those conditions, then crawling into a cold tent at night, or a box in a doorway.”

Something needs to be done now, said Cameron.

“We need action, instead of taking another two to three years to do studies.”

Yukon Housing is doing a building analysis, said Housing spokesperson Nathalie Harwood.

“We are studying the building’s structure and electrical,” she said.

“And once that’s done we can make a decision about what to use it for.”

Harwood was not sure how long the studies would take.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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