Health Minister Pauline Frost announces to media, with Salvation Army area commander Major Al Hoeft by her side on Dec. 20, that the territorial government will assume control of the Salvation Army Centre of Hope in Whitehorse starting at the end of January 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon government to take over Centre of Hope building from Salvation Army

‘This is not a government of Yukon swooping in’

The Yukon Department of Health and Social services is slated to assume control of the Salvation Army Centre of Hope building in the New Year.

Health Minister Pauline Frost told reporters during a Dec. 20 announcement that the complex needs of clients are more than Salvation Army staff “are situated to provide” under its current regime.

“While this partnership has had its successes, both parties have recognized for some time that the services provided at the centre are not meeting either of our hopes or expectations,” Frost said. “We have come to the conclusion that the programming currently offered is not meeting the important needs of our citizens.”

A transfer of ownership will be sealed on Jan. 31, 2019.

Challenges some clients face, Frost said, stem from historical trauma.

The Christian organization will provide assistance during the changeover, offering its expertise as required, said Major Al Hoeft, area commander.

Salvation Army services at the Adult Resource Centre will continue.

In October, the News reported there were concerns about service interruptions at the centre, particularly during the day.

At the time, executive director Ian McKenzie said that, while day programming was a work in progress, it was available.

The Salvation Army has an abstinence policy, Hoeft said, meaning that an alcohol management program isn’t compatible with its mandate.

“We don’t, at any of our facilities in the country right now, run a manage-alcohol program,” he said.

Although there were few specifics about the future service model, Frost suggested that such a program could be introduced.

Asked if there would be any staff changes, both Frost and Hoeft said that would come out after further deliberation.

“At this time,” Frost said, “we have an agreement in principal and we’re working out the final details of what that transition will look like.”

Hoeft said staff members are being assessed, including McKenzie.

“All of these things are still in conversation. Every staff position, right across the board, is really in conversation at this point,” he said.

A potential financial exchange, Frost told reporters, could be part of discussions.

The building, which was paid for by the territorial and federal governments, cost approximately $14 million.

“This is not a government of Yukon swooping in. This is a partnership we’ve had some really great discussions on …” Frost said, adding that the transition plan will evolve in lockstep with community partners including First Nations and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

The hope, she continued, is to advance shelter services, but also be a place where people can gather.

“A centre where individuals of our community can come and feel welcome and deliver programs and services that all of our community can participate in, not be a centre just for those that are vulnerable,” Frost said.

Last year, the department signed an agreement with the Salvation Army worth $3.1 million to deliver emergency shelter, transitional housing, and drop-in meal and activity programs, according to a copy of the document.

Earlier this year, a department staff member was seconded to help the organization with the transition and planning, Frost had said, and to ensure program requirements were being met.

Frost had told reporters that the initial contribution was $3.1 million to help with starter costs; the annual contribution is pegged at $1.2 million.

During the announcement on Dec. 20, Frost said this funding will remain in place.

The Centre of Hope opened its doors in October 2017.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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