Warming centre part of territorial government’s downtown community safety plan.
Safe at Home is operating a warming centre at the former High Country Inn building in Whitehorse. Photo: Sara Connors/APTN
APTN News: A non-profit organization in Whitehorse has opened a warming centre in hopes of keeping vulnerable people out of the cold this winter.
Safe at Home Society (SAH), which works to end and prevent homelessness in the territory, is responsible for operating the centre located at the former High Country Inn.
The building is now being used for the Yukon organization’s Temporary Housing Project and has 29 tenants. According to a news release, the centre and housing project are two separate initiatives.
Kate Meechan, executive director of SAH, said the territory’s department of health and social services asked the organization to test drop-in spaces for people experiencing homelessness.
The centre is part of the territorial government’s downtown community safety plan.
Its currently looking at ways to de-centralize services at the Whitehorse emergency shelter following complaints by business owners and community members who say they’ve been impacted by disturbances and crimes caused by people who use the shelter. “We did have the space,” said Meechan. “We needed to contemplate whether or not it was going to be a fit for our organization and location, but in the end we decided we’d give it a try.”
Snacks and meals are provided and staff are on hand to connect those in need with housing supports. The centre will be able to accommodate up to 20 people.
But since opening its doors on Jan. 18, Meechan said not many people have used the space. “The need is unclear,” she said. “It’s been really quiet so far, but it takes a bit of time to get the word out. We also know we’re at the other end of town so it might be a bit of a walk for people to get to.”
Meechan said the organization is putting up posters and making social media ads to help spread the word. “We really just want to provide people who might be isolated with no place to go (a space to) warm up because they have barriers to accessing other services,” she said. “If you feel like you need a safe place to be, the warming centre could be a good option.”
The hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Sunday until late March.
According to a point-in-time count led by SAH last April, 197 people in Whitehorse were experiencing homelessness, of which 90 per cent were Indigenous.