A new Community Safety Plan for the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter and surrounding community has been developed with help from Public Safety Canada.
In partnership with key local stakeholders, the Government of Yukon worked with Public Safety Canada and its community safety planning process to develop the plan in the context of the shelter. This process advocates a community-based approach to identify ways to address safety concerns, while remaining focused on serving Yukon’s vulnerable community members.
The Community Safety Plan identifies four key priorities that will enhance the shelter’s commitment to providing a safe place for those experiencing homelessness, while also being responsive to the concerns of local residents and businesses. These priorities are:
- Ensuring the safety of shelter clients, drop-in guests and staff;
- Enhancing the shelter's strategic and operational governance;
- Creating a safe and harmonious neighbourhood for shelter clients, and neighbouring residents and businesses; and
- Ensuring that clients can access culturally-based programs, services and other supports that identify and remove barriers to wellness, healing, education, employability, self-sufficiency, and cultural and community inclusion.
The safety plan includes 14 high-level goals and 26 specific actions that are meant to achieve the goal of an emergency shelter that is safe, responsive to the needs of vulnerable citizens, and respectful of those who reside or work in the immediate vicinity.
The Government of Yukon is currently reviewing the safety plan and its recommendations. Some of these actions have already been implemented and several more are in development. A committee will be established to oversee the ongoing implementation of the plan, which will continue to apply harm reduction principles and practices to the delivery of services at the shelter.
Our government looks forward to working with all of our valued community stakeholders, local businesses and neighbours in using the Community Safety Plan as guide to help us address collective neighbourhood concerns. We are committed to working with our partners to create a community that helps all members thrive. The actions in this plan will help us provide the best supports possible to clients while addressing concerns of the downtown Whitehorse community. Working together, with open minds and a spirit of partnership that focuses on how best to support those most in need, we believe that we can better address the complex health and social needs in our community.
Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost
Addressing safety concerns
- Exterior renovations to the shelter are underway that will help to immediately address some of the ongoing safety concerns.
- A six-foot fence has recently been installed along the west side of the shelter, which will deter guests from accessing the back of the facility.
- Seven specially designed benches and planter boxes are being installed along the Alexander Street side of the shelter. These benches will provide more useable space for shelter guests and a safer place to congregate. The benches are movable, so they can be removed if necessary.
Enhanced and integrated health services
- The Department of Community Services has stationed an EMS Paramedic at the facility, 10 hours a day seven days a week. Since January 2020 more than 1200 interactions with shelter clients have been attended to by these paramedics.
- The Whitehorse Emergency Shelter has partnered with Mental Wellness and Substance Services to provide psychiatric nursing and mental wellness counselling and social supports to guests, as well as enhanced integration with the Referred Care Clinic (RCC) through a shared outreach nurse to ensure access to a suite of integrated supports and improved access to primary care.
Increased programming and support services
- In 2019 Health and Social Services added two new positions: a social worker and an outreach worker, to support facility guests and connect them to available resources.
- On-the-land and recreational programming with a First Nations focus has been offered since 2019. A major emphasis has been on guest-led programming and activities. The department of Health and Social Services will continue to work with its government and NGO stakeholders to look at developing further programs and activities.
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. This work is currently being reinvigorated, with a focus on developing peer-based employment opportunities, along with establishing the overall framework for how best to engage guests and peers.
- The shelter has launched a newsletter that highlights activities and programming happening at the facility, and provides some general information to the community on operations.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic staff at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter have been working diligently on measures designed to prevent the potential spread of the virus within the facility and among its guests.
This time last year, there were an average of 55 to 65 overnight guests per day. The overnight shelter numbers for May 2020 ran from 18 to 39 guests per day.
Key measures include:
- Screening overnight shelter guests for COVID-19 symptoms at intake. A detailed set of operational guidelines for this screening process has been developed.
- Ten housing units on the facility’s third floor are being held as future isolation units for guests or shelter users diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Since late March, guests who require minimal supports have been moved into temporary off-site accommodation, to reduce the number of people staying overnight.
- On-site dining for dinner has been restricted to overnight shelter guests only. A to-go meal option is being provided to all shelter guests at the Whitehorse Food Bank.
- We have taken measures to reduce the number of people in the shelter at one time, while ensuring that vulnerable people have a place of respite and a place to connect to health and social supports, if needed.
- Increased on-site cleaning staff are providing 16 hours a day of continuous cleaning services, which meets or exceeds Canadian disinfection guidelines. Shelter beds and mattresses are disinfected daily.