By Rhiannon Russell
The new Salvation Army building in Whitehorse is slated to open at the end of September or beginning of October, a year later than initially planned.
The centre is in the process of being furnished, said Pat Living, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services. The exact opening date has yet to be determined.
“Health and Social Services has been completing our negotiations with the Salvation Army: when do you take over, programming,” said Living. “Between the two of us, we’re trying to figure out a date. One of the things too is we want to have a bit of an opening and so we’re just trying to match everybody’s schedules.”
The building, called the Centre of Hope, is much-needed. The existing shelter, across the street at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Black Street, is over capacity, and has been for years. The shelter has 14 beds, which are full every night, and staff put mats on the dining room floor overnight to accommodate more people.
The new centre, which will have 25 shelter beds and 22 transitional housing apartments, was announced in March 2015 and was scheduled to open in the fall of 2016. That date was pushed back to allow more time to clean up fuel and other contaminants in the soil. The site was previously home to a gas station and a car-repair shop.
During demolition, crews also found hazardous material, including asbestos. The government said at the time that construction was expected to be completed by April. And it was, Living said.
Then the building had to inspected and any outstanding structural or aesthetic issues — missing items or nicked paint, for example — were fixed. This wrapped up in July, she said. The next step is outfitting the building with beds, chairs, tables, curtains, and more.
“The tenders have been let for furniture,” she said, meaning that the contracts have been awarded already. She said she didn’t know if there was any furniture in the building yet.
Ian McKenzie, executive director of the Salvation Army in Whitehorse, said the existing shelter continues to run its programs as usual. “We have seen a small increase in the service that we’ve provided over the last couple of years, but not beyond what we’ve been able to manage in the current facility,” he said.
McKenzie said he didn’t yet know how long it would take to transition staff and residents into the new building. “These are things that we’re working on right now but don’t have any hard and fast numbers.”
At the time the project was announced, the Yukon government said it would be contributing $10.2 million. That was all spent on construction, Living said.
Contact the Yukon News at firstname.lastname@example.org