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WHITEHORSE – The Yukon Party Official Opposition is urging the Liberal government to respond and act on serious issues noted in various reports, from area business owners, the City of Whitehorse, and from the public about the state of disarray outside the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.
Since the government took over operations at 405 Alexander Street, operating costs have ballooned, while outcomes have gotten worse for residents and businesses. Neighbours have been telling the Liberals for over four years about how they witness violence, sexual activity, and open substance use. Proprietors say clients of the shelter harass customers and the public in general to the point where business has dropped dramatically due to the overall concern for public safety in the area.
Two reports – one by House of Wolf and Associates and the other by Vink Consulting – show that even the reviews done for the government recognize the operation of the shelter is failing vulnerable people, as well as people and businesses near the shelter. The reports say the substance use of clients has increased and some of those seeking addiction treatment are being turned away due to a lack of capacity. The reviews also indicate the need for support outside the shelter to keep the area clean, for de-escalation measures, and for crime prevention.
The City of Whitehorse has also expressed its frustration on this issue with the Minister of Health and Social Services. In a letter dated June 16, the Mayor says the City wishes to be a part of the solution, but is ‘imploring you as Minister responsible, to give serious consideration to every and all options available to you to fully address the situation.’
“From listening to people familiar with the situation and reviewing the reports on the Shelter released by the government, it is clear that even some of the clients the facility is supposed to help are experiencing harm as a result of how it is being operated,” said Health and Social Services Critic Brad Cathers. “A path forward needs to improve community safety, help vulnerable people instead of actually increasing substance use and the risk of them being victims of violence, and ensure that downtown businesses and residents can feel safe again.”
Here are excerpts from two reports released recently by the government, one by House of Wolf and Associates and the other by Vink Consulting:
- “38% of guests interviewed reported that their substance use has increased as a result of accessing the Shelter.” In contrast, just 6% reported a reduction in substance use. (Page 17, Vink report)
- “One quarter (25%) of guests interviewed believe the Shelter has had a negative impact on their health and safety crises.” (Page 18, Vink report)
Conflict between people accessing the shelter:
- “Centralization of these supports, in one building, combined with the low barrier approach, can cause conflict for service users. As an example, individuals on the path to sobriety may witness open alcohol or substance use…” (Page 39, House of Wolf and Associates report)
- House of Wolf and Associations suggests “De-centralizing services, or providing service hubs throughout Whitehorse…) (Page 46, House of Wolf and Associates report)