The former Coast High Country Inn in downtown Whitehorse has opened its doors and taken in residents as a temporary shelter for those without housing. The building is in the process of being renovated to serve as a permanent housing project.
Both the temporary housing that is now in use and the permanent units under construction are being managed by the Safe At Home Society. Kate Mechan, the society’s executive director said that as of March 3, 11 tenants had moved in and added that she expects all available space in the temporary shelter will be filled by the week of March 13.
Mechan said the tenants who have moved in so far are relieved to have their own space and the accompanying stability.
According to Mechan, Safe at Home holds a temporary occupancy permit from the city for the High Country Inn that is valid through June 30.
Safe at Home purchased the former hotel located on Fourth Avenue in January 2022 with the intention of converting it into 55 or more affordable housing units. Funding assistance for the purchase and renovations had come from the federal and territorial governments.
Mechan said that in addition to having tenants identified, the building is fully staffed to provide the temporary housing. She said the staff are also happy to see people moving in and the positive impact the housing is having.
Once renovations are complete and the former hotel is taking permanent residents, Mechan said that some of the people now living in the building on a temporary basis may be able to stay. She noted that Safe at Home has made the commitment that 75 per cent of leaseholders for the permanent units at the High Country Inn will be Indigenous and 50 per cent will be women.
She noted that the by-name list of people in Whitehorse experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity that the society maintains has 240 names on it and 70 per cent of those people identified themselves as Indigenous.
Mechan said a goal of the temporary housing project is to connect the people using it with opportunities to get into permanent housing and noted that Safe At Home works with a network of other service providers to assist the people who will be staying at the temporary housing unit.
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