Shelters are full in Yellowknife, MLA seeks solutions from GNWT

Number of bed seekers has increased and 'capacity is being completely overwhelmed,' says Shauna Morgan

Shauna Morgan, Yellowknife North MLA, stands in the NWT Assembly June 11. (Image courtesy of Assembly Livestream.)

Emergency shelters in Yellowknife are “completely overwhelmed,” with MLA Shauna Morgan saying she’s afraid the system will collapse without solutions being found soon.

Morgan is the MLA for Yellowknife North, which includes the Salvation Army complex, which is struggling at over double of its capacity each night.

“I would like to draw attention to the growing population experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife and the non-profit emergency shelters whose capacity is being completely overwhelmed.

“The last time the City of Yellowknife did a point in time count in 2021. It was estimated that at least 312 people were experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife, the vast majority of whom are indigenous and 99 people at that time were staying regularly in emergency shelters. But the numbers have gone up a lot more since then,” Morgan told the NWT Assembly today.

“The stress of COVID lockdowns resulted in more violence and many homes. Since then many more women and youth in particular have been seeking emergency shelter. This series of evacuations last summer caused most of our territory to be displaced from their home communities, and many ended up on the streets of Yellowknife. Some of those who were evacuated from Yellowknife returned from southern provinces with some new friends in tow.”

Morgan said people basic safety is at a premium, and forget substantive counselling or medical treatment or pathways to a different life.

She said: “I’m worried our shelter system in Yellowknife will collapse if we don’t urgently find better solutions.”

Morgan said the Salvation Army’s emergency men’s shelter has 31 sleeping spaces.

But the non-profit “tries to pack over 60 people into cramped rooms with mats laid out on the floor.,” said the MLA, who is a former Yellowknife city councillor.

She added: “They are working with people under the influence of harder drugs, who are more severely intoxicated than they’ve seen before. Predictably, this results in more violence among amongst shelter users and against staff. Many of the longer-term shelter users are now terrified to be there in the same cramped space as a younger and tougher crowd, but they have nowhere else to go.”

The RCMP and ambulances are called multiple times each night, she said.

In response, Health Minister Lese Semmler pointed to the proposed downtown wellness and recovery center, intended to replace the temporary day shelter and the sobering center. However, the construction timeline isn’t yet known.

Some other topics touched on by MLAs in their statements and Oral Questions included:

Sheryl Yakeleya, the MLA for Dehcho, spoke about the high rates of smoking, poor diet, inactivity and heavy drinking, which she says stem from mental health issues.

She said: “When we’re not mentally well, we’ve become unwell physically, emotionally and even spiritually … we cannot separate our mind from our body. Our mind, body and spirit are crucial to our overall well being. And we must give our communities the tools to take care of all these parts of themselves.”

And Richard Edjericon, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh , asked for a commitment to establish educational bodies that align with regional boundaries that have existing treaties and those treaties still in under negotiation and work with indigenous governments to determine the boundaries.”

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: