Here is my response to the open letter received regarding issues in the downtown:
RE: Open Letter on Downtown Issues
Dear Mr. Seiler:
Thank you for your letter of February 9, addressed to myself, other political leaders and media.
As you point out in your letter, there have been repeated requests for action to alleviate the situation in the downtown. A number or positive steps have been taken recently, and further action is underway to alleviate a situation that has deteriorated dramatically in the last two to three years.
Shelter hours have been extended so that there is no period when a homeless shelter is not open and available for refuge from the street. The first of the Housing First housing placements is proceeding, providing 10 chronically homeless people with their own accommodations in the last six months and with more to come.
The City of Yellowknife’s Homelessness Roadmap was developed in consultation with territorial partners, and new financial resources devoted to its implementation in the recent territorial budget. The search continues for a new location for the day shelter, which will be moved once an alternative is secured. A street outreach service will be introduced, to locate and pick up people on the street, and take them to a shelter if that’s what they need. One such shelter will be a “sobering centre” planned in the Homelessness Roadmap, providing a warm and safe place for intoxicated persons to recover. The proposed introduction of a managed alcohol program is expected to reduce the need for persons to be on the street looking for a source of alcohol. I will be in touch with the Justice Minister to urge more policing patrols. I am also continuing to work with the ministers of Housing and Homelessness, and Health and Social Services to implement solutions for the street population and their neighbors.
I am very conscious of the frustration and harm caused by the presence of intoxicated persons, concentrated in the downtown core and in your shopping mall. I addressed this issue at length in my reply to the Budget Address given February 6.
I believe the actions outlined in the Yellowknife Homelessness Roadmap are a vigorous response to these conditions and demonstrate how governments have listened, acted and intend to act. Once introduced, these well-considered actions will go a long way towards improving this situation. I know this is not an immediate solution, and ask for your patience as the program of actions is rolled out.
MLA Yellowknife Centre