The Yukon government is claiming some early success, a week after taking over the territory’s largest homeless shelter.

The government assumed responsibility for the former Salvation Army Centre of Hope in Whitehorse, on Jan. 31. Officials say since then. they’ve seen a lot of people come through the doors.   

“Definitely, the last few days since the 31st have been quite busy,” said Christine Tapp, from the Department of Health and Social Services.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people accessing the shelter — former staff who have continued on with us have commented the same. It’s definitely a lot busier and we’re trying to make best use of all of the space in the building.”

Tapp says the shelter now employs about 40 people, working either full time, part time, or on call. Some worked for the Salvation Army, while others are new to the shelter, she said.

The government pledged to operate the facility in a way that was different from the Salvation Army. Tapp describes the government’s approach as “low-barrier.”

“It means individuals who are intoxicated or may present with some difficult behaviours would definitely be welcome at the facility,” she said.  

‘If somebody’s safety is being compromised or challenged, we would not welcome that behaviour to the building — the individual is always welcome,’ said Christine Tapp, with Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

“If somebody’s safety is being compromised or challenged, we would not welcome that behaviour to the building — the individual is always welcome.”

Clients cannot drink alcohol at the facility, but Tapp says lockers will be installed “in the coming weeks,” so people can store alcohol on site while they’re using the shelter.

‘We’re welcoming people’

The government has increased the number of beds available at the facility. Tapp also says clients can now drop in any time of day or night to find shelter.

“Ultimately, we’re welcoming people,” she said.

Workers remove the Salvation Army sign from the building last month. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

She says the facility’s basic focus will remain the same — providing emergency shelter beds, drop-in services, and a soup kitchen. Other programs will also continue, she said.

“Obviously, karaoke was a huge hit. We will be continuing on with karaoke.” 

Tapp says other programming and services could be introduced, depending on what they hear from clients and other social service groups in the months ahead. Some have already suggested movie nights with popcorn, and arts programs.

After six months, the government will consider the facility’s long-term future, Tapp said.



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