The Government of Yukon together with its community and government partners are making changes to programming and operations at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter with the support of its Safe at Home working group partners.
A number of significant changes have been implemented at the shelter and several more are in development. These changes will provide better support to facility guests while addressing some of the concerns from the downtown Whitehorse community.
We all know that poverty and homelessness are real problems here in Yukon, as they are across this country. When the Government of Yukon began operating the facility as a low-barrier shelter, the full scope of this problem became even more apparent as more and more clients began accessing the facility not just for shelter, but also to meet a range of other health and social needs. It is clear to us that only a cooperative community-based effort will address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community and meet the goals of our Safe at Home Action Plan.
Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost
Safe at Home is Whitehorse’s road map to end and prevent homelessness and the Plan's spirit is one of compassion. Standing in solidarity as a community is one of the single most powerful things we can do to hold up those who experience vulnerability. The Shelter is a crucial entry point into a homeless support system for those experiencing crisis but a shelter cannot be all things to all people, nor will it end homelessness. Permanent supportive housing is what ends homelessness. We need to shift our system to one that puts people at the center.
Safe at Home implementation manager Kate Mechan
The following initiatives are currently underway or are in development:
Addressing safety concerns
- The Department of Justice is coordinating a Community Safety Planning process that will bring together other government departments, representatives from First Nations governments, the RCMP, non-governmental organizations, businesses and community members to develop a Community Safety Plan.
- The RCMP, together with Health and Social Services, is planning to pilot a Community Liaison Officer position, with a focus on supporting the facility and community-based policing.
- Staff are developing a Peer Outreach Program with facility guests. It will conduct safety and wellness checks and provide outreach to vulnerable people in the community.
- The facility’s 20 apartments, initially operated as transitional housing units, are proposed to be used as permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals with complex care and support needs.
Enhanced and integrated health services
- The Department of Community Services is stationing an EMS Paramedic at the facility, 10 hours a day seven days a week.
- The Department of Health and Social Services will be adding two mental health positions at the facility, including one psychiatric nurse and one mental health counsellor.
Increased programming and support services
- Health and Social Services has added two new positions, a social worker and an outreach worker, to support facility guests and connect them to available resources. The department is currently exploring adding two additional workers given the high number of drop-in clients also needing supports.
- Some facility staff have been reassigned, and are now dedicated to developing and leading programming and activities for clients, with a focus on First Nations programming.
Increased client involvement
- A Guest Advisory Committee was created in summer 2019 to provide Health and Social Services with advice and recommendations about programming and services.
- The shelter will soon be launching a monthly newsletter that will highlight activities and programming happening at the facility, and provide some general information to the community on operations.