Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the territorial housing corporation left the Yellowknife Women’s Society (YWS) in limbo as to whether it would support ongoing plans to turn the Arnica Inn into transitional housing.
Earlier this month, the YWS began operating the former inn as an isolation space for people at risk of severe illness if they were to contract COVID-19, especially those facing homelessness.
Bree Denning is the executive director of the women’s society.
She told CKLB the goal is still to turn the space into transitional housing. However, to do so the YWS has to make a handful of renovations, including an energy upgrade.
The YWS still has an application with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to fund these renovations and officially purchase the building.
Right now, 14 people are staying in the isolation spaces; there are 25 available units.
“Once COVID is no longer a concern, we will do our best to work with our GNWT and NGO partners to find arrangements for individuals while we complete these renovations,” Denning told CKLB. “We will also assist people in looking for housing in the community while they are with us in the shelter. We will then work to complete the renovations that will be required as a condition of our funding, and then reopen as supportive housing for individuals who require additional supports to live independently.”
CKLB asked the territorial government about long-term support for transitional housing at the inn.
“The Yellowknife Women’s Society continues to have an active application to the federal government under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund to secure funding for the purchase of the building,” said Revi Lau-a, the director of the NWT housing corporation. “The transformation of the Arnica Inn into a housing-focused building would be an important addition to the city’s housing options.”
CBC recently reported those options are few and far between.
Paulie Chinna, the minister of housing, pointed to the lack of public housing in Yellowknife and said the GNWT doesn’t yet have a solution for those who will be leaving the isolation centres set up during the pandemic.