Warming shelter to open Behchokǫ̀

A new warming shelter could be opening in Behchoko in the coming weeks.

A one-storey bungalow, bought and paid for by the Tlicho government, is set to act as an overnight shelter for Behchoko's homeless population.

The three-bedroom house will be able to take in 15 people a night.

Scott Young, the detachment commander for the Behchoko RCMP, has been working on this project for about a year.

He said he wants to make sure people have a warm place to sleep — especially on cold winter nights.

Young said he's had people knock on his door in the middle of the night, asking for somewhere to sleep or asking to be put in a jail cell. He said he can't put somebody in a jail cell just because they have nowhere to go.

"It's heartbreaking to turn somebody away during those times," he said.

The shelter will also need staff — and it may be up to volunteers — depending on if Young can get enough funding.

Young also said he'd like to be able to offer people a hot meal in the future.

The shelter's opening date depends on staffing and renovations. There was some controversy about the location since the shelter will be located in a neighbourhood where families live. 

This empty room in the future Behchoko warming shelter will get a new coat of paint and other light renovations before opening to the public. (Submitted by Scott Young)

But Joe Pintarics, executive director at the friendship center in Behchoko, said the need for a shelter in the community is enormous, but there is controversy about where it's located. Families live in the area and are concerned about their children's well-being. 

"We have anywhere upwards of 125 people that are in some form of homelessness," he said.

"There's lots of people that leave the community to form part of a group of homeless people here in Yellowknife."

Michael Mantla is one of those people. 

He used to be homeless in Behchoko, but he moved to Yellowknife because there are more services available to him. When he arrived, he used the men's shelter to help him get back on his feet.

"There was nothing [in Behchoko] when I was there," he said.

Now that a shelter is opening in Behchoko, Mantla said he would consider moving back, because that's where his family is.

Originally posted on CBC News by Jamie Malbeuf on March 14, 2018.

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