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Yukon Territories

Former Whitehorse hotel will convert into temporary housing mid-February

The former Coast High Country Inn in Whitehorse will become 20 temporary housing units from mid-February.

According to a Jan. 30 joint release by the Yukon government and the Safe at Home Society, the Safe at Home Society will be located at 4051 Fourth Ave. provide short-term accommodation for support.

“Safe at Home is thrilled to be able to use this building … by directly supporting people affected by homelessness,” said Kate Mechan, executive director of the Safe at Home Society, in the press release.

“A foundation of this temporary program will be working with tenants to obtain permanent housing. Behind the scenes, Safe at Home will be working with the Yukon government and other funders to ensure the future progression of the project is realized.”

Safe at Home will manage and operate the temporary program at the former hotel. According to the press release, the City of Whitehorse granted a temporary residency permit in January, allowing the organization to occupy the premises through June 30.

Mechan said that before news The temporary program cannot begin until the Safe at Home Society is “confident” it has the appropriate staff-tenant ratios to operate 24/7.

In the press release, the Yukon government is providing the Safe at Home Society with money for “capital improvements needed for the temporary supportive housing” and “enters into” an agreement to provide 24/7 on-site support. Communications director Carleen Kerr, who works in the Department of Health and Human Services, said Yukon Housing Corporation invested more than $142,000 in the temporary housing project.

“We are excited to support the Safe at Home Society in providing all-inclusive serviced housing to Yukoners this winter,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tracy-Anne McPhee said in the press release.

“We will continue to work with the Safe at Home Society and other partners on new, innovative ways to address homelessness in our community.”

The temporary housing units are distributed based on the nominated list, which is the Safe at Home Society’s real-time list of people affected by homelessness.

“It’s not a waiting list, it’s a matter of finding the best possible match based on each person’s needs and the housing units available,” states the Safe at Home Society website.

The Safe at Home Society appears on the City of Whitehorse’s Tax Lien Summary for more than $69,000 in property taxes owed and a penalty of nearly $7,000 plus interest, for a total of $76,705.12. According to Mechan, the Safe at Home Society is working with the city on its development incentive proposal designed to encourage the development of smaller, denser housing types, targeted density and rental or supportive housing projects.

Long term iteration

In the long term, the hotel is to become a permanent funding project.

An August 2022 Yukon government fact sheet indicates that the inn will eventually be converted into 55 homes for women, youth, and Indigenous Yukoners. A release by the Safe at Home Society on October 28, 2022 indicates there could be as many as 67 units.

The Safe at Home Society website states that the permanent project will target those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“By converting a former commercial hotel into 55 self-contained suites, the project will provide affordable, safe and supportive housing for a diverse population,” the website reads.

“Support staff will be on site 24/7. Tenants have access to crisis intervention, guest management, counseling and security planning.”

Each suite comes furnished, offers a kitchenette and private bathroom, and has access to laundry facilities and common areas.

“Looking at the list of names, there are currently 195 actively homeless individuals and families in Whitehorse. The majority do not require intensive care such as that provided by a Housing First model. However, you may need a higher level of assistance than a private rental from Yukon Housing [Corporation] would offer,” the website says.

“This is where 4051 Fourth Ave. established as an enduring supportive housing model within the Whitehorse housing continuum.”

As already reported by the newsThe Yukon Legislative Assembly heard the Yukon Party question the feasibility, budget and delay of the housing project during the fall 2022 session.

In a joint press release dated January 31, 2022, the federal and territorial governments previously indicated that the affordable housing project is expected to be completed in fall 2022.

The housing project is funded by the Federal Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Territorial Government’s Yukon Housing Corporation.

The joint release said the project will receive $10 million from the Northern Section of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund and $5 million under the Expanded Rapid Housing Initiative, totaling $15 million in federal funds for the renovation and refreshment of the former inn.

“To date, we have poured $1.02 million into this project,” Ranj Pillai, the territorial minister in charge of Yukon Housing Corporation, said Oct. 27 in the Legislature.

Contact Dana Hatherly at [email protected]

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