Housing report

‘The problems are systemic’: Supporters react to Auditor General’s report on Yukon housing

A new auditor general’s report shows just how difficult it is for Yukon’s most vulnerable people to find housing, say social justice advocates.

“The issues are systemic,” said Kate Mechan, executive director of the Safe at Home Society, which fights homelessness. “They are also very fixable. We can do that.”

The Auditor General released a scathing report this week that the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Department of Health and Human Services have not done enough to provide adequate and affordable housing to those who need it most. .

The results include a waiting list that swelled by 320% between 2015 and 2021, siled departments and a flawed priority system, which seeks to house particularly vulnerable residents first – such as those struggling with homelessness. or fleeing violence.

Safe at Home Society Executive Director Kate Mechan at a press conference in Whitehorse on August 24, 2021. She said the issues highlighted in the Auditor General’s report on housing and homelessness in Yukon are systemic but also “very fixable”. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

The Auditor General has made nine recommendations to the government to improve the system. The government has accepted all of the recommendations, but it is still unclear when they will be fully implemented, or which will be worked on first.

The Auditor General made similar recommendations in 2010, when the housing issue was last studied.

Mechan said this crystallizes what needs to be done.

“We know what the shortcomings are,” she said.

Housing issues intersect with the opioid crisis

Housing is health, according to Brontë Renwick-Shields, executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions.

“Housed people have better outcomes when overdosed, she said. “We find that homeless people are often disproportionately affected by the overdose crisis.”

Bronte Renwick-Shields, executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions. She said supportive housing is especially important in addressing the opioid crisis. “Housed people have better overdose outcomes,” she said. (Philip Morin)

Renwick-Shields said supportive housing is especially important in addressing the opioid crisis. While there has been some progress – the Housing First residence in downtown Whitehorse, for example – more units are desperately needed.

“We need to treat this as an emergency issue,” she said.

The problems affect women disproportionately

Aja Mason, executive director of the Yukon Status of Women Council, said the face of homelessness is increasingly gendered, with women — Indigenous women, in particular — being disproportionately affected.

Safe at Home maintains a list which shows that, as of last week, 194 people said they were currently homeless. Of these, 61 are Aboriginal women.

Mason said the issue revolves around hotels, which are being repurposed for tourists now that the COVID-19 pandemic is waning.

Aja Mason is director of the Yukon Status of Women Council. She said women, and especially Indigenous women, are disproportionately affected by homelessness in the Yukon. (Submitted by Aja Mason)

“The list of names has doubled over the previous months,” she said.

“We know there are huge implications for housing shortages from a gender-based violence perspective,” she said. “We must not overlook the intersection of housing shortages and domestic or intimate partner violence.”

Mason said private sector housing will not fill the void. The answer is that nonprofits own and operate public housing complexes such as co-ops, she said.

“Opportunities where people can play a role in the game, where they’re not paying someone else’s mortgage.”