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Report makes groups fume

Jessica Klinkenberg
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 08/06) - A report submitted to the federal government on homelessness has left advocacy groups in Yellowknife fuming.

The document, prepared for the Housing and Homelessness Branch of Human Resources and Social Development Canada, states that information sharing among Northern organizations is poor, and that homelessness in the NWT is fluctuating and unpredictable.

Titled Homelessness in the Territorial North: State and Availability of the Knowledge, the report was released Oct. 26.

"One of the things that really pissed me off was that it said we don't talk to each other," said Lyda Fuller, the executive director of the YWCA.

"I have monthly conference calls with battered women shelters in Nunavut and the Yukon," Fuller said. She said she is in touch with those organizations because there are no YWCAs in those territories.

"We talk about what we're doing, what we're hearing on the streets," she explained.

The YWCA provides housing for families who are either homeless or unable to afford an apartment in Yellowknife. Fuller estimates that they help 120 adults and 150-160 children yearly.

The report uses numbers taken from a GNWT report on homelessness done in Oct. 2005. The GNWT's research looked at homelessness numbers as provided by the Salvation Army and the Centre for Northern Families in Yellowknife. Neither report looked at the number of homeless families that the YWCA takes in annually.

Fuller said she never knew that the report was in the works, and said she was never consulted.

"When the report came out I was broadsided," she said.

Lydia Bardak who sits on the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition, was also angry with the report. Members of the coalition were never contacted, she noted.

The study states that "the regular shelters are geared towards emergency shelter for sober people, not shelter and structured assistance towards social re-integration of persons with substance abuse problems."

It also states that "...there have been various calls for transition houses for the homeless," but it does not mention the new transitional men's home known as The Bailey House, which is currently in the works in Yellowknife.

According to Human Resources and Social Development Canada representative Moby Chaudhari, the report was funded through the National Research Program, which is part of the National Homelessness Initiative.

"Like all research funded by the NRP, the content of this report is the responsibility of the author," Chaudhari said via e-mail.

Andrew Webster, consultant for the report, did not respond to the Yellowknifer's e-mails prior to press deadline. Webster has taught sessional lectures at Carleton University on political economy of social welfare.

The document, which also draws on archived media stories and organizational reports, recommends that the Mackenzie pipeline project be monitored because it will have numerous effects on the NWT.