Charlotte Morritt Jacobs
It’s as basic as a cot, a shower and a space to dry out.
The new sobering centre and day centre in Yellowknife is doing just that, keeping people off the streets, out of jail and the away from the city’s emergency room.
The centre first opened July 2017 but could only be housed in temporary locations such as a Salvation Army and the uptown arena until it found a more permanent home.
For Alex Rymer, it’s a space for a warm cup of coffee, today’s paper and resource workers – a major upgrade from the centre’s old location.
“I come here during the day and sometimes when I am not working,” he said. “It sure helps being in a warm place. I am having a difficulty being homeless as well. It is nice to come to a place to see your friends, a safe and sober place.
Rymer has been on the wait-list for social housing and has been staying at a motel that he is helping to renovate in the meantime.
“You know the price of the rent, it is hard to get started. For myself I am a roofer and have been working but have a lot of injuries and I have been trying so hard to work but am at the age now too,” he said.
Since the centre opened in September of this year all 27 beds have been filled nearly every night.
Katelyn Gibbons, Manager Sobering and Day Centre helping clients at the current and former locations.
“During the day we had people sleeping on couches or sleeping with their head on the table,” said Katelyn Gibbons, manager of Sobering Day Centre. “A lot of people would be outside for the most part.
The building is built with client’s needs in mind, there are laundry and shower facilities and paramedic on hand at all hours, checking up on clients as they arrive and leave.
On one side of the building a day centre operates with resource workers.
There are people of all ages and from all NWT and Nunavut communities hanging out in this space but Gibbon’s said she has noticed a rising trend in certain clientele.
“We are definitely getting an increase for younger people, they transition from SideDoor or Hope’s Haven [at-risk youth homes] and they transition to us because of services. We are also seeing more elders,” she said.
Staff help book and attend appointments and get identification for people who have gone without.
“We actually have a lot of people who use our address as their address,” said Gibbons. “We have a mailing box so they can use that to get their cheques or set up their bank accounts.”
While the centre has better services, not everyone is happy with the location – which is behind the downtown liquor store.
“It’s not an ideal location, but it is central downtown and has access to a lot of other services too,” Gibbons said. “That is more important than the location of the liquor store. They are going to go to it regardless of where this is. It doesn’t really matter for us because we still offer the same services as if we were behind it or three blocks from it or if we are uptown.”
Gibbons said the centre is hoping to start alcohol control program, flu clinics and dental checkups in the coming year.