The Yukon Territory spared no expense building a facility for the homeless in Whitehorse, but social advocates say the Salvation Army is not providing the care they need.
The new $15-million Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope has everything – but its sobriety rules may keep the city’s most vulnerable out in the cold.
“We’re talking about people who have chronic alcoholism chronic or chronic drug addiction and it’s combined with trauma,” said housing advocate Patricia Bacon. “And top of that we’re suggesting the best approach is to just be abstinent and live in this apartment on the second floor – it’s crazy.”
Bacon said the city needs a housing first model which is based on harm reduction – where people can take a certain amount of drugs and alcohol.
“There is no reason to think that the Salvation Army was going to have a housing first approach when the salvation army’s mandate, mission, and philosophy is a Christian based one,” she said.
The issue of who will be allowed to be in transitional housing at the new centre came up in the Yukon Legislature on Monday.
“Will the minister agree that the transitional housing that will be available at the Salvation Army is not a Housing First model?” NDP MLA Kate White asked the Yukon’s minister of social services Pauline Frost.
Frost said no one will be turned away.
“That means that individuals will not be turned away if they arrive seeking services and are under the influence,” she said.
Frost is correct – the centre’s emergency shelter area will take anyone. But only for a night.
And not for the long-term housing units.
People with addictions are out of luck.
White said she’ll keep the government on task.
“(The) Yukon government doesn’t own the building, the Salvation Army will own the building,” she said. “How do we make sure that we are helping our most vulnerable how do we make sure government because I believe the government has a responsibility to help the most vulnerable in the territory.’
Yukon government said it will review the program in a year to determine if the Salvation Army is meeting the needs of the city’s most vulnerable.