Former Whitehorse hotel to temporarily house Indigenous people, vulnerable Yukoners

The former hotel will provide temporary housing until the end of June.

A former hotel in Whitehorse is getting ready to open its doors to vulnerable people in need of housing.

Safe at Home Society, a non-profit that provides supports for low-income and vulnerable people in Whitehorse in need of housing, is preparing to temporarily house 20 people at the former Coast High Country Inn next week. The organization purchased the building from its former owners last year.

The building will also offer supports to its residents, such as 24/7 access to staff, crisis intervention and harm reduction.

“Any relief that we can provide in a housing market such as this where there’s no access to deeply affordable housing (is a positive),” said Safe at Home executive director Kate Mechan. “The benefit of this particular project, though temporary, is that there will be supports on site.”

Mechan said the organization recently secured a temporary housing permit from the city of Whitehorse. Residents will be able to reside at the building until June 30.

She said the ultimate goal is to upgrade the building so that it can become permanent housing. That plan includes 67 total housing units, 75 per cent of which would be allocated to Indigenous people.

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Mechan noted the 55-year-old building still requires some work which is why the society was only able to secure a temporary permit.

The organization is working to raise funds with past and current investors to improve the building’s energy efficiency so it can have residents stay there permanently.

“We realize that ultimately impacts folks experiencing homelessness,” she said. “As we’ve learned more about the building we’ve realized there’s a deeper level of building code upgrades that need to be done.”

The society has a list of around 230 individuals and families waiting for housing. Seventy-two per cent of people on the list are Indigenous.

Mechan said the bottom floor of the building has a commercial kitchen and restaurant and could eventually provide working space for the people who live there. That might include rooms designated for education and job training.

Mechan said the building will ultimately be “tenant driven.”

Safe at Home received $10 million through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rapid Housing Initiative to purchase the building. It received an additional $5 million from the City of Whitehorse’s Rapid Housing Initiative project stream and $1 million from the Yukon Housing Corporation.

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