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Men's home means business

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 20/06) - There almost certainly won't be a women's clothing boutique there, or a fine dining restaurant, but City Hall hopes some business or government agency will set up shop at the Bailey House men's transitional home when it opens.

NNSL Photo/graphic

City homelessness co-ordinator Dayle Handy and Mayor Gord Van Tighem stand in front of the old fire hall -- soon to be the site of a men's transitional home. The city is looking for prospective tenants to help offset costs of running it. - Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

Two weeks ago, the city invited prospective tenants to submit expressions of interest to lease out space on the bottom floor.

"I see it as an inter-related function," said Mayor Gord Van Tighem. "I don't see any speciality boutiques appearing in the building."

The hope is to have a paying tenant to help subsidize the costs of running the home.

Van Tighem said it's not a novel concept. Other homeless shelters across Canada do the same thing.

"I've always thought of a daytime gathering place where guys can go for coffee ... and meet with others," said Van Tighem.

"Maybe provide an alternative to sitting outside the post office freezing or getting chased out of the mall."

The mayor said he also thinks the location would be ideal for a "central referral area," as recommended in the Safer Communities report submitted to the city last September.

A storefront office at the transitional home could be used as a sort of information centre for homeless people to enquire about services available to them.

The site for Bailey House - named after Rev. Gordon and Ruth Bailey - is located across the alley from the Salvation Army on 45th St. The old fire hall currently standing there will be demolished to make room for it. The city acquired the site through a land swap with a city developer.

Once built, the facility will include 29 suites where low income male tenants can live while paying a small amount of rent until they're ready to move into homes of their own.

The men will have graduated from either existing Salvation Army life skill programs or those returning from addictions treatment centres in Hay River or in the south.

The facility is expected to cost around $3 million.

The Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition, which includes the Salvation Army, YWCA, and the Centre for Northern Families, is spearheading the project.

The federal government has so far pledged to chip in $1.2 million for the project. NWT Housing Corporation is contributing $220,000, and in September, Diavik Diamond Mine offered $250,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the facility.

The company is taking the leading role in constructing the building, similar to what Diavik did in building the second pad of the Multiplex arena. It's expected to be completed by the end of next summer.

The city wants the Salvation Army to operate the facility once it's ready, but Major Glenda Mac Kenzie said there are still financial hurdles to overcome.

Even with a paying renter on the bottom floor, she said she expects at least a $125,000 annual shortfall in running Bailey House.

Mac Kenzie said the Salvation Army won't be able to commit to running the home unless the organization can find away to make up the shortfall.

"If we don't have a renter for that section it will put us up to about $175,000," said Mac Kenzie.

"We want to do it but we have to prove that it is financially viable."

In the meantime, the ball is still in the city's court, said Mac Kenzie.

Dayle Handy, city homelessness co-ordinator, said they haven't received any submissions as of Friday, although some people have expressed interest.

The deadline to submit expressions of interest for the Bailey House commercial space is Friday, Nov. 24, although it could be extended if the city doesn't receive any responses by then, said Handy.

"The building won't be occupied until next winter so we still have some time," said Handy.

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