The owners of Alpine Bakery in Whitehorse say they are temporarily closing their downtown business due to issues related to the nearby emergency shelter.
The bakery is on the same block as the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter, which opened at 405 Alexander Street in 2017.
Walter and Silvia Streit live above their bakery and say the noise from shelter users keeps them awake at night and causes health problems. They also discussed repeated cases of break-ins and the discovery of needles and drug paraphernalia in the bakery’s yard.
Businesses near the shelter have long complained about noise, trash and other visual reminders of poverty, addiction and mental health issues in Whitehorse.
The Streits’ decision to close their business sparked protests on social media and from other members of the business community in Whitehorse this week, many of whom publicly shared letters of support for the Streits.
Silvia and Walter are originally from Germany. After many visits to the Yukon, they decided to take over the bakery as a retirement project seven years ago.
A visibly emotional Silvia told Breaking: that while the community has been incredibly supportive, the situation with the shelter has simply become too much to handle.
“I would really love to thank our loyal customers, our super support and our staff. The whole situation is very overwhelming,” Silvia said. “It is very sad for me to make this decision.”
In an email shared with Breaking:, Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai offered to meet with the bakery owners to discuss the situation.
“The temporary closure of Alpine Bakery will be a tremendous loss to its customers and to the community that has depended on its business for bread, pastries and coffee over the past few years,” he wrote. “I wish to offer my sincerest apologies.”
This is not the first time the Yukon government has committed to addressing tensions between shelter users, local businesses and homeowners.
In 2022, the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) and the Yukon government hired two independent consultants to assess whether the shelter was meeting needs and what measures could be taken to address community impacts.
Those reports, released in May of this year, found the shelter was providing a critical community service.
Based on data and interviews conducted with clients, staff and other stakeholders in the shelter community, House of Wolf & Associates determined that the shelter saves lives each year, as well as money.
“It saved me from freezing to death and having to huddle in an alley many times. It saved me from starving to death,” said a shelter client in The reporttitled “A Way Forward.”
But the report also found that concerns about safety and the threat of violence were consistent across all demographic groups they interviewed.
“It’s a building full of fear,” Water Streit said, referring to shelter users. “They get scared and appear at the bakery, in the patio, saying ‘we can hide here’ because they say…”
“… ‘there is so much violence in front of the shelter that we are afraid to wait for dinner to be served,'” Silvia concluded, nodding. “I feel very sad for those people.”
For the Streits, the report is proof that the shelter has been failing both its users and other members of the community.
Nonprofit says changes are coming
Connective, a Vancouver-based nonprofit, has run the shelter in partnership with CYFN for less than a year. They took over refuge operations in the Yukon in October 2022.
In addition to a more substantial analysis of long-term challenges and solutions, the “A Path Forward” report suggested specific and concrete short-term goals for the shelter operator.
In the four months since the report was published, Connective spokesperson Kim Pettersen says several of those recommendations have already been implemented, with more to come.
Both Walter Streit and the report recommend decentralizing some of the shelter’s services to reduce demand at its Alexander Street location. In response, the shelter submitted a proposal for a dining program that would deliver meals to avoid forcing residents to wait outside the shelter.
In response to requests for increased law enforcement and street monitoring outside the shelter, the organization says it has met with the RCMP every two weeks and submitted a proposal to the Yukon government for a shelter safety outreach initiative. center.
“We have been working to provide clarity around the purpose and services offered at 405 Alexander so people can better understand its place in a much larger, more complex systemic puzzle,” Pettersen said.
He also noted that local businesses and residents may be noticing a more general trend: ap resultsspot count published last week suggested that homelessness in Whitehorse has increased by up to 30 per cent in two years.
Silvia and Walter Streit say they might consider their decision to close the bakery if they see some significant changes. They will meet the prime minister on Thursday.
But Berns Johnson, who uses the emergency shelter frequently, feels that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Come back in 10 years and you’ll ask yourself the same questions,” Johnson said.
“We’re looking at years of liquor sales, racism and colonialism. This isn’t going away anytime soon. At the end of the day, they don’t want us here, and here we are.”