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Mark Rendell

Women's Society Bids for Housing First

As the Feds kick in an extra chunk of cash, the organization behind the Centre for Northern Families is the only bidder on a major contract to manage the City's homelessness program

As bidding on a RFP to run the City’s Housing First Program closed on Monday, the Yellowknife Women’s Society was the sole organization to submit a proposal.

Details of the proposal aren’t public, and EDGE was unable to reach Bree Denning, executive director of the society (which also runs the Centre of Northern Families) by publication time. However, according to City councillor Linda Bussey, the decision about whether to award the contract, which now appears to be valued at around $1.3 million, will be made by the end of the week.

“They've put in the time. It was quite a long and hefty proposal,” said Bussey. “Right now [City] procurement is looking at the technical side,” to ensure the society’s proposal meets all the criteria outlined in the RFP.

The bid’s closure comes just days after the federal government confirmed that it would be topping up Yellowknife’s Housing First funding with an additional $235,000 over the next two years; that’s on top of the $210,000 promised annually for the next three years.

The GNWT budget tabled last week also confirmed that the territorial government would be putting $150,000 towards the initiative; if that funding remains consistent until 2019, the total amount of money (GNWT plus Feds) going towards the Housing First project will be roughly $1.3 million.   

According to the RFP, the “preference is minimum 20 persons housed,” by 2019.

“The proponent will provide Coordinated Intake, Access and Assessment as a single place or process for people experiencing homelessness to access housing and support services through the Housing First Project,” reads the RFP. “Rather than moving from program to program, or shelter to shelter, a coordinated response will enable quicker entry and access to housing and supports, tailored to individual needs.”

The proposal from the Women’s Society follows an announcement several weeks ago that they had purchased a new building to house their daycare and were planning to renovate the old daycare space into transitional housing. This initiative received GNWT endorsement last week, in the form of $600,000 in the budget to add transitional apartments in existing shelters. 

Should the Women’s Society win the City’s Housing First project, they’d be dealing with a separate pot of money, and managing a distinct program which, according to Grant White, the City’s director of community services, “is all about [housing] choice, so it’s client-driven.”

In the past few days, over at the Legislative Assembly, shots have been fired between Yellowknife MLAs and Caroline Cochrane, minister responsible for homelessness and former CEO of the Women’s Society, over the GNWT’s decision to prioritize shelter renovation rather than Housing First.

However, Linda Bussey seemed positive that the minister’s former employer was bidding on the project.  

“They are going to know the clientele… [and] maybe [the centre’s renovated apartments will provide] a transitional step into the rental market. We always said we needed a one-stop shop.”

If the Women’s Society wins the bid, they will be expected to provide a number of wraparound services such as a rental coordinator, a program manager, and someone to offer support and help finding employment, says Bussey. Clinical services, such as visitation from nurses or mental health counsellors, will have to be provided by the GNWT. The department of Health and Social Services hasn’t made any firm commitments yet on this front, but Bussey says they’ve indicated their employees will be available.