Yellowknife sobering centre closes indefinitely due to escalating COVID-19 outbreak

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Yellowknife's only sobering and day shelter. Services are now suspended indefinitely.  (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)
Yellowknife's only sobering and day shelter. Services are now suspended indefinitely. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

Two days after the temporary closure of its day shelter, Yellowknife's combined day shelter and overnight sobering centre is now closing entirely, and it's not clear where those who rely on the shelter will sleep.

"The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority was notified of this closure late this afternoon by the operator, the NWT Disabilities Council," reads a Saturday evening news release from the health authority.

As of Thursday, services at the overnight sobering centre were expected to continue as usual, along with breakfast and lunch for clients. The closure followed news that 19 people experiencing homelessness and 10 shelter support workers had tested positive for COVID-19.

Those services are now suspended indefinitely.

"At this point the NTHSSA is unable to establish and staff an emergency shelter service due to capacity constraints related to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Yellowknife and other regions," the authority states.

The sobering centre has 27 beds, though only 18 clients were being admitted in recent months to allow for distancing.

Services at the Salvation Army and Women's Shelter remain open. The health authority said it's working with the Salvation Army to provide daytime meals.

"This is a rapidly developing situation; the [health authority] and [Department of Health and Social Services] continue to work closely the NWT Housing Corporation and with all local NGO shelter operators to ensure collaboration and coordination of services."

The authority said it has also escalated requests to "key partners," including the department of Municipal and Community Affairs and the City of Yellowknife.

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