Report on Homelessness in Yellowknife to be Released Today

CBC Radio, Thursday, May 26, 2011, 6:30 a.m.

ROBYN BURNS, CBC: A report analyzing homelessness in Yellowknife will be released later today. It says each night more than 100 people in the city are looking for shelter. The report looks at services available to people living on the streets. Mark Kudlak is from Nunavut and has lived on the streets of Yellowknife for a decade. He usually stays at the Salvation Army, but he thinks there should be another shelter for people who are trying to get sober.

KUDLAK: The Salvation Army, they help, but it’s just the smell and the drinking. So I’m trying to avoid it right now. Too many guys arguing and everything, and it’s not too bad, it’s just alcohol and the smell.

CBC: Kudlak deals with the fighting and the smell because he doesn’t have a lot of options. He says his parents are homeless too. Each night his mother stays at the women’s shelter and his father at the Salvation Army.

CBC Radio, Thursday, May 26, 2011, 7:30/8:30 a.m.

ALISON DEVEREAUX, CBC: New research on homelessness in Yellowknife will be released today. It says each night more than 100 people in the city are looking for shelter. According to a summary of the research, over 90 percent of homeless people are Aboriginal. Mark Kudlak is from Nunavut. He’s been living on the streets of Yellowknife for 10 years, since he was 18. He usually stays at the Salvation Army, but says sometimes there’s not enough room.

KUDLAK: If it’s too full, they put us in the lounge. If not, if it’s too full, they just let us stay outside. I try to find places, like my auntie’s, if not I’d probably go in a stairwell or in a tent.

CBC: Kudlak says in the winter he has even fewer options.

KUDLAK: Mostly in the wintertime cause I’m homeless, staying on the street, yeah.

CBC: According to the study being released, permanent housing costs less than emergency shelters, jail or hospitals. The report is one of three that looks at what the government is spending to provide shelter and services to homeless people in Yellowknife.

CBC Special Report, Thursday, May 26, 2011, 7:45 a.m.

DENEZE NAKEHK’O, CBC: On any given night there’s more than 100 people in Yellowknife without a roof over their head. Some of those people will access one of the city’s shelters, but others will sleep in the streets. Today the first part of a series of papers looking at the issue of homelessness in Yellowknife will be released. It’s called Homelessness in Yellowknife and Emerging Social Challenge. According to the paper, 90 percent of homeless people in Yellowknife are Aboriginal and the services the city has to offer are inadequate. Arlene Hache is the executive director for the Centre for Northern Families. She initiated this research into Yellowknife’s homelessness. Nick Falvo (?) is a PhD candidate at Carlton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration. He’s the main researcher and the author of the policy report. They join me in the studio right now. Good morning to both of you.

HACHE: Hi, Deneze.

FALVO: Good morning.

CBC: Good morning. Arlene, I’ll start with you. Why did you want the research to look at the homeless situation here in Yellowknife?

HACHE: Well I’ve worked with people who are homeless over about 30 years now and I realized eventually that I wasn’t able to really communicate what was happening from my experience in a way that decision makers or funders could understand. So I began talking to researchers about how important it is that we partner up with them to really get a real grip on what’s happening, why it’s happening and what real solutions might be. So thankfully researchers through the SENICA (?), which is kind of an agency that is just funding research in the North, finally heard what I was saying and really partnered up with the Centre for Northern Families through Carlton University and Nick Falvo and we are doing a lot of different types of, or looking at different questions related to homelessness and this is just one part of that.

CBC: Well, Nick, you’re the main researcher. Who did you talk to?

FALVO: When I began the research the research team made a conscious decision that we wouldn’t interview homeless people during this particular study. One of the reasons we decided against doing that was we didn’t want to duplicate research being done by Julia Christensen (?), who is a young graduate student at McGill University who is from Yellowknife. So I spoke to members of the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition, I spoke to people who worked for the Government of the Northwest Territories, I spoke to service providers, I also went outside of Yellowknife. Although Yellowknife was the case study for this particular policy report, we felt it was important that I visit other communities. So I actually went to Lutselk’e for a short time. I also went to Rae and I talked to people there. But the policy report looks at Yellowknife as a case study and of course has policy recommendations for the Territory as a whole.

CBC: So what sort of things did you find? What kind of gaps were there when it comes to services for the homeless in Yellowknife?

FALVO: We found one of the most important gaps was the lack of housing options available for people who are homeless. One of the report findings is the fact that most people in Yellowknife who are homeless are not eligible for public housing. There are bachelor units and one-bedroom units of public housing that can become available, but they are prioritized, they’re prioritized for people who have a physical disability or who are over the age of 60. So under the current system, unless a homeless person in Yellowknife without children meets one of those two criteria they have never and will never obtain public housing in Yellowknife. So that was a gap and although Bailey House has been open for some time and is providing important services, the report finds that Bailey House works very well for some people, it has very strict rules around being clean and sober, but it does not work well for other people. So the report makes recommendations around making housing options available for those other people who don’t fit in so well at Bailey House.

NAKEHK’O: Is there anything else that stood out for you or surprised you about the situation for the homeless people in the city?

FALVO: I think the biggest surprise was shelter conditions. At the emergency men’s shelter in Yellowknife, men have to sleep approximately one foot apart from each other every night. This is very close for a shelter and it’s especially surprising given that just a few years ago at that very same homeless shelter there was a tuberculosis outbreak. There were 14 active cases of tuberculosis and that ended up costing the health care system about half a million dollars to address. So it was surprising to see those close quarters to begin with, but especially surprising given that just a few years ago there was that tuberculosis outbreak. So the report makes recommendations. It recommends that the GNWT develop shelter standards that have to be followed and it recommends the GNWT provide adequate funding to organizations so that they can implement those standards.

CBC: Alright, Arlene, was there anything about the research that surprised you?

HACHE: There wasn’t anything about the findings that surprised me. It did surprise me that the team that did the research worked so well and so inclusively with a frontline service provider. It also surprised me that the government was just so open to hearing what the outcome of the research was and appears to be really open to looking at what the solutions are and open to accepting the recommendations that we’ve put forward. At least considering them over the next couple of years.

CBC: Okay, this research has been going on. So, Arlene, what direction do you want to see this research go from here?

HACHE: Well there’s two other pieces of research that I’m really excited about. One is looking at the history of housing in the Northwest Territories and the impact of policies, whether it was for good or for bad and sort of where that leaves people in terms of housing. So I’m really interested in that. The other thing that I’m hoping will happen is that the government does embrace and accept the recommendations that we’ve put forward and that we can move forward looking at housing along a continuum and not just shelters or not just transition housing, and looking at solutions that fit for people in, not just Yellowknife, but communities outside of Yellowknife.

CBC: Alright, Arlene, Nick, I appreciate your time today. Thanks for coming in.

HACHE: Thank you.

FALVO: Thanks so much.

CBC: Arlene Hache is the executive director for the Centre for Northern Families. She initiated the research into the homeless situation in Yellowknife, and Carlton University’s Nick Falvo is the main researcher and author of the policy paper, which is being released today.

Publication Date: 
Yellowknife, NT, Canada