Youth shelter a study in endless studies

By Tim Querengesser News Reporter Building a safe, warm shelter for homeless Whitehorse youth takes time — lots and lots of time.

By Tim Querengesser

News Reporter

Building a safe, warm shelter for homeless Whitehorse youth takes time — lots and lots of time.

A year after the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness released its 51-page, $39,000 study identifying the need for a youth shelter, the group is investing another $48,390 federal grant into a six-month shelter implementation study.

And that has led to charges from youth workers that money earmarked for a shelter is being funneled into consultants’ pockets.

More research is needed to make the proposed sanctuary a success, said Marilyn Wolovick, executive director of Yukon Family Services Association.

“It’s been a long-term issue, and we don’t want to dive into it and fail — we want to succeed,” said Wolovick on Monday.

Coming from Ottawa’s National Homelessness Initiative, the money was exactly what the organization requested.

It will fund a study by two consultants exploring the “nuts and bolts” of the shelter, she explained.

“We have to do the careful planning; we have to find the proper location; we have to find the capacity within the community to support it long term; we have to find long-term funding; we don’t want to do a six-month project that’s going to disappear at the end of six months,” she said.

“We want a solid, sustainable program.”

Approaching Ottawa or the Yukon government for funding won’t happen until the study is done, she added.

In 1999, the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness received $2.4-million from the federal initiative, to be spent over five years to build homes for the homeless.

But that federal money is not yet delivering warm beds for kids in need, Wolovick conceded.

“This winter, we’re not going to be able to do that, unfortunately,” she said.

That’s a huge disappointment, said Vicki Durrant, executive director of Whitehorse’s Blue Feather Youth Centre.

As before, the funding announcement arrives on the cusp of winter, said Durrant, who is critical of more studies.

“I’m sure they don’t appreciate another study being done while they’re freezing their butts off,” said Durrant of homeless youth.

“Studies have been a big hit, and a lot of people have been getting a lot money to do studies. But in the end, who’s benefiting from all that money? Consulants. And, obviously they’re not homeless — they have a paycheque.”

Between September 2003 and May 2004, Durrant and the centre — along with Con Lattin, owner of the Roadhouse Inn — offered homeless youth 18 beds at the Roadhouse.

Blue Feather submitted a proposal to the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness to continue funding the project. It was rejected.

“Had we received the financial support, which is always going toward studies, that project would still be going on today,” said Durrant.

“How much money has been put towards studies? I’m sure we could have bought the Roadhouse (Inn) with all that money,” she said. (TQ)

HEALTH

Norwalk virus hits the hospital

The Whitehorse General Hospital is limiting visits to its inpatient unit following an outbreak of a common, “very contagious” intestinal infection.

Last Thursday, staff noticed patients coming down with unexplained bouts of diarrhea and vomiting.

Then hospital staff started calling in sick.

Laboratory tests confirmed the culprit was Norwalk virus.

So far, about 25 people have been infected.

The hospital hopes to limit further cases, said community hospital liaison nurse Val Pike.

To do so, it’s limiting inpatient unit access to healthy adults.

Norwalk has forced other Canadian institutions to close services or units, said Pike.

“We only have one hospital here so we have to look after it really well.”

The restriction will remain in effect until midweek, provided there are no new cases.

The Norwalk virus has an incubation period of 72 hours and people are considered infectious for 48 hours after symptoms clear up.

“You can pass the virus around to everybody without even knowing you have it,” said Pike.

“That’s why it’s so contagious.”

And the symptoms can pass as soon as they arrive.

“You can be feeling well one minute and running to the bathroom the next,” said Pike.

Norwalk is a hardy bug that lives on surfaces for hours, making it “very contagious.

“It can be passed through a simple handshake with someone carrying the bug,” she added.

The best way to prevent it is by washing your hands a few times a day. (LC)