polo fields cumming ga New shelter called ‘an incredible space’
“It can be a bed for a night or it can be support for the future.”
At a ceremony held last Friday, Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost summed up much of the role the new Salvation Army Centre of Hope facility at Fourth Avenue and Alexander Street will have in the community.
While Oct. 30 will mark the first date the centre will be open, the official ribbon cutting was held Friday morning. Tours were offered to the large crowd that had come out for the event.
The facility will offer 25 emergency beds along with another 20 transitional apartments that are set to open around the end of November.
It was a standing room only crowd of about 80 who turned out for the event in the large dining room space which can ultimately sit up to 150 people for a meal.
The current building, also on Fourth Avenue at Black Street, seats about 40 people.
The dining room is one part of the main floor that is set to offer drop in and community programs for clients.
Ian McKenzie, the local Salvation Army’s executive director, pointed out that with a dining room that is separate from two common rooms on the main floor, those coming in to the centre won’t have to leave the building when staff are cleaning up the dining room, as they do now.
Throughout Friday’s opening, McKenzie praised the numerous partners involved in the project, including the territorial and federal governments, which provided funding.
Under the Investment in Affordable Housing program, Ottawa and the territory contributed $1.1 million along with another $3 million from the Northern Housing Trust.
The Yukon government also contributed $10.2 million toward the purchase of the property, design and construction.
“The government has been an important partner in all that has gone on,” McKenzie said.
He pointed out that discussions around the building of a new shelter began in 2012.
While the building had originally been scheduled to open last year, work was delayed due to contaminated soil on the site,
given that it had once accommodated a vehicle dealership and repair shop. Work had to be done to remediate the soil before construction could begin.
The excitement in the community over the ribbon cutting and the centre’s impending opening to those who need a place to stay and/or a warm meal was evident in the crowd who had gathered there.
As Yukon MP Larry Bagnell pointed out, it’s not often there’s a crowd that large or with so many community leaders at such events.
“This is a very exciting day,” he said, describing the facility as “much needed”.
As the building’s name suggests, he noted, it will be a source of “comfort and hope” to those in need.
Bagnell also highlighted federal investments in a variety of housing initiatives before congratulating all those involved with the project and wishing well those who will use the services at the facility.
Premier Sandy Silver also reflected on the years of work that have gone into developing the new facility, noting the Army’s “long time and important presence in our territory,” and congratulating the organization on “a job well done.”
McKenzie emphasized that the building is only the beginning. There are plans to work alongside Health and Social Services to ensure those coming into the facility have access to a range of programs available in the community.
Frost said she already sees stronger partnerships forming as the facility gets set to open.
“It will be life changing for a lot of people in our community,” she said.
Also on hand for the ribbon cutting was Cpl. Lee Graves, the Salvation Army’s chief secretary for Canada, who highlighted the thought and care that went into the design of the building.
“It’s an incredible space that will bring that important dignity and lift to all who might enter through the doors,” he said.
Graves later noted it will be a place where those in need can plan their next steps in life and build the skills they need.
The walls of the building were empty, but as McKenzie said, the organization is hoping it will be filled with artwork that will reflect the culture and community.
Peter Johnston, the Council of Yukon First Nations’ grand chief, presented the Salvation Army with the first piece of artwork for its walls a carving entitled “The Healing Spirit” by Jared Kane,
a Ta’anKwch’n artist.