Premier pledges to meet with Yukoners living in tents to help them find housing

Premier Ranj Pillai speaks with reporters regarding his commitment to meet with and house Yukoners living in tents. (Photo, S. Bonell)

Yukon NDP House Leader Lane Tredger describes Premier Ranj Pillai's commitment as a bluff; says Pillai is "out of touch."

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai has committed to meeting with homeless Yukoners living in tents.

At the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Monday, Third Party House Leader Lane Tredger raised concerns about Yukoners living in tents, including those who were evicted from the High Country Inn for Safe at Home’s renovation project and those who were evicted from hotels ahead of the tourism season. Tredger pointed out that April is very early in the year for anyone to be sleeping outside, especially considering Sunday night’s snowfall.

“Right now, today, there are dozens of people living in tents in Whitehorse, even though it’s only April,” said Tredger during question period. “We all know that April in the Yukon is a long way from summer. It is much too cold to be living outside in a tent, but that’s the reality for many people right now.”

“Last night, Yukoners were sleeping in tents; many without so much as a sleeping bag to help them survive the sub-zero weather. That is not safe. It is not right. And it cannot continue. So, what immediate actions is the premier taking to find housing for the many Yukoners living in tents in the snow and freezing temperatures?”

Premier Pillai, who is also the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, responded to these concerns with an ambitious promise.

“Look, I’m going to make a commitment on the floor of the House right now;” said the Premier. “The member opposite said there’s dozens of people living in tents in Whitehorse as of last night. So, I will go there with you. I will meet with those individuals, and we will find appropriate housing for those dozens of people. I’m ready to go tonight.”

Pillai expanded on this commitment while speaking with media later that day, saying it would be his responsibility to discuss this situation.

“I’m going to be open; I’m not aware of dozens of people living anywhere in the City of Whitehorse. So, I think I have an obligation to go there and speak with those individuals.”

“I also mentioned to my team, ‘if this is accurate, please, these are things I need to know.’”

Tredger, however, wasn’t impressed with the Premier’s commitment at the Legislative Assembly. They said that the issue of seasonal homelessness has been a concern for quite some time, and that bringing a politician into someone’s tent on a whim isn’t the right way to address this problem.

“I think he said that because he doesn’t believe that those people are actually there,” Tredger said to reporters. “I just can’t believe how out of touch he is to think that this isn’t actually happening; that this is not the reality for a lot of Yukoners right now.”

“The idea that the way to do housing is to take the Premier wandering around people’s tents at night and offering them a place to live; that would be a wildly irresponsible way to do housing. It would make no sense.”

“It would be really invasive for the people. I wouldn’t take him into people’s living rooms without asking. I’m not going to take him into people’s tents without asking.”

When asked how long it might take for the Government of Yukon to help dozens of homeless Yukoners find a more appropriate home than a tent, Pillai was confident that it could be handled quickly.

“Yeah, I think within a week we can figure that out.”

“What we tend to do is we’ll look and see what opportunities we have within existing partnerships. Yes, sometimes different short-term rentals work for us. Sometimes we use existing infrastructure that’s owned by Yukon Housing Corporation.”

“If we have to reach out to other levels of government, maybe it’s a situation where individuals have a connection to [or] are constituents of a First Nation government. Maybe it makes sense for a short-term for us to work directly with that First Nation to come up with a solution for a week or two, if they’re waiting for their application to go through. But we’ll look at all of the different options in front of us.”

While an unexpected visit from the Premier would likely be invasive, Tredger believes that those experiencing homelessness could greatly benefit from a getting into even a temporary home sooner rather than later.

“If the Premier has homes ready to go for people, I will commit to giving him a list of people who want those places, because they are out there tenting right now. And, I think a lot of them, if offered a home, would really take it.”

Yukoners needing support are encouraged to reach out to their First Nation, when possible.


Other supports available include:

Whitehorse Emergency Shelter: (867) 455-2820

Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition: (867) 334-9317

Blood Ties Four Directions: (867) 633-2437

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