Yellowknife sobering centre opens doors as street outreach program begins – North

A temporary sobering centre opened on Monday in the Yellowknife Community Arena.

The sobering centre, in conjunction with a mobile outreach unit that started patrolling the streets on Monday as well, will offer shelter to those who want an indoor space to sober up.

It’s a spartan setup inside the arena. Large camping tents are set-up to accommodate up to 28 people. The tents are lined up in two rows, with a men’s section and a women’s section. Each tent sleeps two with room to spare. A material divider separates one guest from the other.

Inside a sobering centre tent, a foam mat and tarp on the concrete floor. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi)

For health and safety concerns, there are no sheets or blankets; just a sleeping pad and tarp. The tents are on the arena’s bare concrete surface.

After an intake screening to identify anyone who may need more acute care than what the sobering centre is designed to offer, patrons are directed to a designated tent. Those who stay the entire night are woken up at about 5 a.m., given a breakfast bag of dry goods and sent on their way.

The ealry wake up call is designed to have people out the door by 6 a.m., when service at the downtown day shelter begins.

The Yellowknife Community Arena is the short-term sobering centre for the City of Yellowknife. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Sobering centre and outreach program will address deep need in community

At a public media event for the centre’s opening on Monday, Mayor Mark Heyck said there are many “very vulnerable citizens in our community … deeply, deeply in need of the sobering centre services and street outreach services.”

Heyck hopes the street outreach program — run by the Yellowknife Women’s Society — and the sobering centre will reduce strain on city emergency responders who have seen a steady increase in calls for service related to assisting severely intoxicated people in the city.

Emergency responders in downtown Yellowknife. Calls for service…

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