Housing First Donation Depot Opens Downtown

Sponsored by the Homeful Partnership

Yellowknifers now have a chance to become involved in the growing community effort to help the city’s less fortunate citizens. The Yellowknife Housing First program is accepting donations starting this Saturday at its new Donation Depot, located in the empty lot on 50th Street and 51st Avenue (just look for the brightly painted sidewalk!) beside the Gold Range.

It’s a temporary depot big enough to hold large items like mattresses, tables and chairs, as well as the many smaller household goods — pots, J-cloths, towels, sheets — that will be used to set up apartments. The goal is to have four homes made available to people in need by the first week of October.

The Housing First concept is grounded in the idea that permanent housing is a person’s first and foremost need, and a basic human right. Once a person is safely housed, then other needs can begin to be addressed and health and social issues can improve.

Under the direction of executive director Bree Denning, the Yellowknife Women’s Society successfully bid on the contract to run the Housing First program in partnership with the City of Yellowknife for two-and-a-half years. Denning has hired four employees, who have begun assessing suitable participants for the program. The most vulnerable and unable to provide for themselves will be selected first, with a goal of eventually housing 20 people.

Donations of new or gently used items can be dropped off at the Donation Depot Saturday afternoons from 1-4 p.m., or by appointment by calling (867) 688-0035. For a full list of what’s needed, visit ykhousingfirst.com. Cash donations are also greatly appreciated, and charitable receipts are available.

The Donation Depot and assistance to the Housing First program came together quickly this week thanks to an outpouring of effort from the city’s business community, working under the direction of the Homeful Partnership, a non-governmental group of concerned citizens led by local architect Gino Pin. The Homeful Partnership has been lobbying for a Housing First program for several years. When the contract was signed last month, Denning says the group approached her and said, “Tell us what you need, give us the list and we’ll get on it.”

And they did. The main concern — actual living accommodations — has been taken care of by a commitment from Northern Property REIT, a steadfast member of the Homeful Partnership, to provide apartment units. But all of the items needed to make the apartments a home were still required, along with a place to store the donations. The Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation offered up an empty sea can they no longer needed and the City of Yellowknife gave use of the empty downtown lot to collect items for the next 4-6 weeks.

DJ’s Towing manager Laurie Nielson didn’t hesitate when asked if her company could move the sea can onto the lot at no cost. “It’s a good cause. We want to help,” she says. They’ll be delivering the sea can on Saturday morning.

EDGE’s designer Pamela Schoeman created the Yellowknife Housing First logo, their website and designed the banner for the depot. Canarctic Graphics, which has been donating its services to provide brochures and graphics for the Homeful Partnership to spread the word, put in a rush order and within no time their sign specialist, Sandy Craig, had produced the large banner which will hang from the depot seacan.

“The community support and willingness of local business people to step up and get this depot started and help out our program has been overwhelming,” says Denning. “There’s a lot of compassion and caring out there and we want to thank everyone for moving so quickly and recognizing the urgency of our work.”

Another shortfall for the Yellowknife Housing First program was an office for the staff. Eventually, the program will operate from a publically-accessed storefront, but for now employees just needed a quiet place to get organized and had been working from the public library. Rob Warburton and Sam Gamble of Cloudworks, which partners with Good Company, a non-profit, community-focused co-working space for the North, generously offered a temporary home for the group in their 52 Street office complex. The staff quickly settled in.

“It is really great. We so appreciate the space. It’s big enough for all of us and we are able to get our work done,” says Simon Okurut, who is the Housing First team leader.

For years the Homeful Partnership has been fielding offers of donations — everything from whitefish to furniture — from caring Yellowknifers wanting to help. Now, through the dedicated efforts of municipal leaders, private citizens, businesses, and the Yellowknife Women’s Society, the Yellowknife Housing First program is ready to accept those donations.

It would be appreciated if people could check the website to see what is needed before bringing donations to the depot. Also, only new or high quality used items will be accepted. Please drop by the depot or call 688-0035 if you need more information.

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