New Halfway House for women in Whitehorse is expected to open in March
Women leaving Whitehorse Prison who still need supervision and access to programs will soon be able to find new homes.
The newly renovated Takhini Haven building on the Whitehorse Correctional Center site is expected to welcome its first occupant in late March, subject to staffing levels and demand. The non-profit Connective Support Society will operate the facility with funds from the territorial government and contributions from the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN).
The facility is the only stopover in the Yukon for women entering and exiting the criminal justice system — for example, women who are being released on bail or serving suspended sentences. Release plans include a condition that the person must live at a specific address, but Yukon Attorney General Tracy-Anne McPhee said women may not always have a place to go.
“Often there is another safety factor [for women] than for some men,” McPhee said Wednesday during a news conference and media tour in Takhini Haven.
“This residency, this programming will allow women who would otherwise be unsafe to return to their community, who are involved in the judicial process, to be in a safe place and to begin to address some of their concerns and issues in a way that ultimately, we hope they will be able to reintegrate into their communities.”
McPhee also described the facility as “the first of its kind in the North” and said the government will commit nearly $1.2 million to the project by the end of March 2024.
Takhini Haven will be Connective’s fifth program in the Yukon. The group also runs a similar facility for men in Whitehorse that opened in 2020, replacing one that was run by the Salvation Army.
Connective associate regional director Gigi McKee said Wednesday the nonprofit is still hiring for Takhini Haven, but once the facility is up and running, it will have 24-hour surveillance and can house up to eight women.
“Our staff can help residents overcome obstacles in their journey to reintegration into the community while providing targeted programs, support, advocacy, and community resource information as they work to achieve their self-imposed goals,” she said.
McKee added that Connective has sought to create a home environment – there is a shared kitchen, dining table, living room and washrooms, while each woman will have her own bedroom – and will work with CYFN to ensure women of the First Nations in Takhini Haven remain culturally appropriate support.
In a separate interview, CYFN executive director Shadelle Chambers said the council has a good working relationship with Connective, having previously worked with Connective on other projects, including the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.
“We recognize that Yukon First Nations and Indigenous women are over-represented in the criminal justice system,” Chambers said, “so it’s really important that CYFN and Yukon First Nations are involved in this program.”