City council narrows list of possible temporary homeless shelter locations

Yellowknife City Hall (File photo/CKLB)

Yellowknife City Council are ruling out several locations for a temporary homeless shelter.

The temporary shelter is needed for the winter months as COVID-19 restrictions limit the amount of people able to use other shelters.

Government of the Northwest Territories representatives, including Sara Chorostkowski, the NWT’s director of mental wellness and addictions recovery and Perry Heath, the department’s director of infrastructure planning, presented several locations at a meeting on Monday.

The proposed locations included the Yellowknife Public Library, the library meeting room, an Aurora College building near Coyote’s Bistro on Franklin Ave., the Multiplex, the Kingpin Bowling Centre and the H&R Block on 47 St.

Another option presented was to construct temporary buildings in the parking lots of several locations including the former YWCA’s Rockhill apartment building, the city’s old visitor centre parking lot, the Multiplex Arena parking lot, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.

Council’s decision

Most councillors did not support using city facilities, such as the library, for a day shelter.

Both Mayor Rebecca Alty and city council supported the use of the Aurora College building and the majority supported both the H&R Block and the bowling alley.

Coun. Stacie Smith did have concerns about the bowling alley’s location.

She says the building’s proximity to the Foster Family Coalition could put the children at risk of seeing their parents or relatives in distressing situations.

The bowling alley also would only be possible if it is sold to a prospective buyer, Chorostkowski says.

A concerned community

Nick Sowsun, one of the organizers of the concerned Yellowknife residents group, says the shelter must be downtown to be close to all the necessary services such as the Day Centre & Sobering Centre, the Salvation Army and the women’s shelter.

“We’ve heard discussions of locations such as the field house and the museum, but this is a really far distance when it’s minus 40 and you don’t have a car,” he explains.

Michael Fatt, co-ordinator of the Common Ground homelessness program, spoke of the need for everyone to work together to find a proper location.

“Let’s deal with our problem, these are our people, let’s cut out the us vs. them thinking,” he says.

City council previously rejected a proposal by the GNWT to turn the former SideDoor building into a temporary shelter.

This sparked the group of concerned residents to issue and open letter to the city.

That letter may have put the option back on the table.

Coun. Shauna Morgan said she would support the application being presented before council once again.

“I would certainly support that coming forward… As it does seem like the facility has some good potential,” she says.

For that to happen, a new application would need to come forward addressing the issues raised with the first application.

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at