Downtown emergency shelter users safely relocated after burst pipe forces evacuation

·2 min read

Everyone in the Salvation Army's downtown emergency shelter was relocated safely Sunday night after a burst pipe forced an evacuation as temperatures in the city plummet to –50 C with windchill and below.

Jason Brinson, the Yellowknife Salvation Army's executive director, said staff sounded the alarm about a burst pipe shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday morning.

"We've had flooding on all four floors of our resource centre here," he said.

The centre contains an emergency shelter with dozens of beds that provides transitional housing and programming support to dozens of Yellowknifers.

Though the flooding forced a temporary evacuation, Brinson stressed that the Salvation Army was working to rehouse everyone staying at the facility by Sunday night and ensure programs continue.

"We have been able to relocate everybody, everyone who would normally come to us," said Brinson.

He said he stayed at the shelter until 11 p.m. last night to make sure no one showed up at the shelter expecting to stay there overnight.

He said no one showed up.

"There was a night person as well, and presumably nobody showed up for him. So the message got out quickly to people who normally stay with us, which is nice," Brinson said.

Not sure when it will reopen

Brinson said it's not yet clear when the building could be operational again. A remediation team is working on site to clear up the flooding and assess the damage.

He said everyone who uses the shelter will be looked after but added they don't have a long-term plan because they don't know if they'll need one yet.

"We have to get the contractors in to assess the situation, and find out just what's going to be required and go from there," he explained.

He added it might be a "little while" until the food bank is operational again.

Yellowknife is in the middle of an extended cold snap that has seen temperatures drop to well below –50 C for a period of days.

Even before the winter weather set in, the City of Yellowknife struggled to respond to the need for emergency shelter, prompting the territorial government to declare a local state of emergency to meet the need.

Brinson asked those who prayed to include the Salvation Army in their thoughts.

"We ask for prayers for the cleanup to go quickly and smoothly," he said, "so we can get operations back to the way they were before."