New head of Yellowknife's SideDoor to focus on building relationships with 'youth, especially'

·3 min read

Tammy Roberts is used to carrying more weight than most people might be willing to lift.

The executive director of the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT has been a foster parent herself for close to 30 years. In that time she's cared for around 250 children and young people, including some with severe learning and behavioural issues.

Now, Roberts is assuming another leadership position as the executive director of SideDoor, a Yellowknife non-profit that helps young people in tough situations with emergency shelter, housing and other supports.

When asked how she's managing the oversight of two organizations, Roberts sounds unfazed.

"It's going to be interesting, but they're very similar, so I think I have a lot of knowledge to bring forward," she says.

Roberts began at SideDoor on Nov. 9, but says she'll be in a "transition period" until Dec. 10, when the non-profit's board is set to meet.

She says that since official discussions have yet to take place, there's not much she can pass on about the organization's plans, like, for example, whether SideDoor might merge with the Foster Family Coalition.

"I'm thinking that there won't be any huge, immediate changes, just because there's a transition time where we need to see what's working well, right? And then just build from that."

Troubled period at SideDoor

Roberts takes over SideDoor after a relatively tumultuous period in the organization's 25-year history.

In early March, shortly before COVID-19 prompted a widespread shutdown in the Northwest Territories, SideDoor unexpectedly closed its youth drop-in centre downtown. Days later, allegations emerged of mismanagement and mistreatment at the organization.

In the months that followed, the drop-in centre, called the Resource Centre, was moved into Hope's Haven, SideDoor's youth shelter, and Iris Notley, the former executive director, resigned.

As the new head of SideDoor, Roberts says she wants to focus on building relationships with government, funders, other non-governmental organizations, and with "youth, especially."

Exploring options for Resource Centre

In the waning months of Notley's tenure at SideDoor, she suggested to CBC that most of the young people who used the Resource Centre had housing, and that SideDoor would refocus on serving young people who are homeless.

Roberts says funding agreements in place until the end of March outline who SideDoor is meant for, but didn't elaborate on those agreements, saying she wasn't sure of the details as she's still in the transition phase.

As for the previous Resource Centre building downtown, that's now occupied by the city's new day shelter.

Roberts says she can't comment on whether SideDoor wanted to reopen the Resource Centre in its former location.

CBC
CBC

"Everything's out of one building right now," she says, referring to Hope's Haven. "It is very crowded, of course, but we're looking at other options."

Casting her sights into the future, Roberts says she hopes that SideDoor will be a place where "youth, and our staff, and everybody is feeling supported."