CYFN and Connective to take over running Whitehorse emergency shelter

·2 min read
The Whitehorse Emergency Shelter in 2018. Beginning Oct. 1, the facility will be run by the Council of First Nations and Connective. The two organizations have been running the Housing First residence in downtown Whitehorse together since last year. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
The Whitehorse Emergency Shelter in 2018. Beginning Oct. 1, the facility will be run by the Council of First Nations and Connective. The two organizations have been running the Housing First residence in downtown Whitehorse together since last year. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

The Whitehorse emergency shelter will be under new management beginning Oct. 1.

A partnership between the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) and Connective, formerly known as the John Howard Society, will take over running the facility.

Connective will operate the shelter on a day-to-day basis and CYFN will do the majority of the staffing and management.

The change will help connect clients to more culturally appropriate programming, said Shadelle Chambers, CYFN's executive director.

"We are looking at having one cultural support worker position and have an opportunity to have elder knowledge keepers in residence," said Chambers.

She added CYFN will also have funds from the Yukon government to provide additional cultural programming and supports at the shelter.

"CYFN recognizes that Yukon First Nations and Indigenous clients use these services and are highly represented in the clients," she said.

The shelter, located downtown at 405 Alexander Street, is the territory's largest and has been run by the Yukon government since January 2019. Before that, it was operated by the Salvation Army. The government will continue to fund the facility.

Building on successful partnership

CYFN and Connective have been working together running the Housing First residence in downtown Whitehorse, which provides longer-term housing for people in need, since April 2021. They took over from the Yukon government.

Kaila Deboer, director of social supports with the Yukon government's Department of Health and Social Services, said the partnership between CYFN and Connective has been "really successful."

"They bring a lot of knowledge and experience in their respective domains for connecting and running 24/7 programs and working and providing shelter and other 24/7 supports to vulnerable people," she said.

Chris Kinch, director of provincial and northern initiatives at Connective, said CYFN provided advice and some cultural supports for residents at the building.

"I would look forward to carrying that forward into the shelter as well," he said.

Chambers said the two organizations learned a lot from that partnership, which will help ensure a smooth transition for the emergency shelter from the government to the CYFN and Connective.

She added the partnership has big challenges ahead as it plans taking over the running of the shelter.

"The reality is we are in a housing crisis here in the Yukon. It is challenging to get housing and there's an opioid crisis occurring as well. And so all of these factors have really contributed to the needs of the Whitehorse emergency shelter."

Deboer said the government had always intended for the emergency shelter to be run by a non-governmental organization or by a Yukon First Nation or other indigenous organization.

She said when the government took over operating the emergency shelter three years ago, it looked at options to have a non-governmental organization run it.

"It wasn't possible at that point in time, but it has been something that we have been working towards," said Deboer.

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