A view of Dawson City from West Dawson. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government is planning to build a youth transition house in the city. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

A view of Dawson City from West Dawson. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government is planning to build a youth transition house in the city. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Youth shelter for Dawson City in preliminary planning stages

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have put out a call for public feedback on the project

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government is planning to build a youth transition house in Dawson City.

“We’re just at the public feedback stage, and really wanting to connect with the youth of Dawson to see what their needs are from their own mouths,” said Allison Kormendy, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in wellness director.

The First Nation published an explanatory video and survey on Feb. 15. The survey feedback will shape the services offered, and Kormendy said substantial engagement has already been garnered.

“It really comes back to what the needs are,” Kormendy said.

The transition house may contain a mix of longer term, semi-independent and shelter housing, she explained. Youth aged up to 29 would be eligible for service.

“There’s different phases in Whitehorse, there’s emergency shelters, the youth transition house, then there are independent suites. So, we’re going to want to make sure we’re covering as many of those needs here in Dawson as well,” Kormendy said.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has already secured funding to develop, organize, design and build the house.

The project was spurred by a 2017 report by a national youth screening project, which identified the need for a youth shelter in Dawson City. Currently the only shelter options for youth exist in Whitehorse.

The transition home will help residents develop skills in cooking, cleaning, financial management, career planning, communication and healthy relationship skills. It’s also considering space for ceremony and cultural components.

Annette King, the Yukon’s Child Advocate, said she’s in favour of the additional service for Dawson City.

“We have identified youth homelessness as something that we want to pay attention to,” King said. “It’s really hard to get a grip on, because it’s really hard to connect with young people who are so marginalized that they don’t even have a place to live.”

King said the transition house could help youth in their 20s who have aged out of government care.

“We have a systemic issue regarding kids aging out of care, because often kids don’t have the skills to live independently at 19,” King said.

“This could really fill that gap for those young people over the age of 19, particularly those kids that have maybe been out of the community and then return to their home community when they leave care.”

King would like to see multifaceted services addressing education, recreation, nutrition, mental health, access to outside services and cultural connections. Family mediation could also be a major component, she explained.

“Lots of times, young people actually do want to go home, they just need help to facilitate a conversation with their family,” she said.

Kate Mechan, Safe at Home implementation manager, told the News that “youth are underserved territory-wide,” and the addition of low-barrier housing is critical. She added that transitional housing should be improved in tandem with permanent housing solutions.

Pat Living of the Yukon government’s Department of Health and Social Services said her department is not involved with the project, though they are aware of the interest.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

Dawson CityYukon First Nations

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