Supportive housing shortfall remains

Those who need the most help with housing are falling through the cracks, says the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. There simply aren't enough supportive housing units in Whitehorse to meet demand.

Those who need the most help with housing are falling through the cracks, says the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

There simply aren’t enough supportive housing units in Whitehorse to meet demand.

Last year, in it’s housing action plan, the coalition detailed the housing crisis and proposed a number of solutions.

But more than a year later, little has changed, especially for those in need of supportive housing, according to the coalition’s recently released progress report.

That includes everyone from seniors, people with FASD, cognitive and physical disabilities, mental health issues and those with active addictions.

“It’s a diverse population,” said Laurie MacFeeters, who sits on the coalition’s housing task force.

These people often need support to keep a roof over their heads, she said. With limited options available many of them end up living in hotels, in shelters and on the street.

It’s unjust, said MacFeeters.

“We believe they have the right to such housing,” she said.

The housing task force isn’t sure how many people need supportive-housing services.

“There are at least 100 homeless people but that’s probably a very small number in comparison with the reality,” said Kate Mechan, a member of the task force.

There are a number of organizations that offer similar services to these clients, but there’s little co-ordination between them, she said.

Mechan tried to spearhead one effort to provide a co-ordinated response last year, but it died for lack of government support.

The Northern City Supportive Housing Coalition had plans to build a 20-room supported apartment complex in downtown Whitehorse. It also sought to coordinate the efforts of the various groups serving that population.

“It was one of the reasons that made the proposal unique,” said Mechan.

The idea was to pool scarce resources and cut through the red tape that often discourages people from getting the help they need, she said.

“It’s a full-time job for someone to go around and access all of the services they need, to have their basic needs met,” said Mechan.

Northern City got $10,000 in seed money from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the backing of several banks. But it also needed a $900,000 investment from the Yukon government to get off the ground.

At the time, the government was sitting on $18 million in federal housing money. The building season came and went without a word from government. Eventually, Northern City withdrew its proposal.

But, since the territorial election, there may be renewed interest in the idea.

One of the few bright spots in the progress report was the fact that the government had held two meetings to discuss the project.

The territory has also expanded its home-care program to the tune of $457,000. And Options for Independence, a non-profit organization that helps people with FASD, received $2 million to help expand the supported housing complex it runs.

Currently, that organization houses nine people.

It’s still drawing up plans for the expansion, but at minimum, the investment should allow the organization to double its capacity, said director Terry Molnar.

Lately, Options has had to turn people away.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking at times to realize that there’s no options for them at the moment,” said Molnar.

The coalition’s progress report had many blank spots.

Though requests were made by the coalition, very little information was received from government departments.

The Department of Health and Social Services won’t comment until the coalition releases its third and final progress report next week, said spokesperson Pat Living.

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