Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 04, 2014 - 5:55 am

Homeless in Nunavut: MLAs quibble over numbers and facts

“I think I’m more confused after that statement then I was before”

Tununiq MLA Joe Enook does not believe the results of a recent GN survey that found only 98
Tununiq MLA Joe Enook does not believe the results of a recent GN survey that found only 98 "homeless" people living in Nunavut's three regional centres. (FILE PHOTO)

The MLA for Tununiq Joe Enook thinks there are far more than 98 homeless people in Nunavut.

On June 2 the minister of homelessness, Jeannie Ugyuk, updated the legislative assembly on the results of a point-in-time homelessness survey, which counted homeless people in Nunavut’s regional centres — Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.

“Our count identified 98 people in Nunavut who were homeless, without housing of any kind, on the day of our count,” Ugyuk said in her statement to the assembly.

The minister reported the results of a survey her department conducted that found 98 people living in emergency shelters and places not intended as year-round residences in Nunavut’s three regional centres and suggested that this was the number of homeless in Nunavut.

That statement has confused some people who recall the results of the 2010 Nunavut Household Needs Survey, which showed roughly 1,200 Nunavummiut are homeless if you count people who couch surf or sleep on people’s floors because they have nowhere else to go.

When talking about the recent survey of regional centres in February 2014, Ed McKenna, director of the Nunavut Family Poverty Secretariat, explained that it wasn’t going to count “hidden homeless” but rather, “our focus is on people that don’t even have that option,” he said.

“Obviously, we’re not ignoring hidden homelessness, but we can’t pretend to come up with a number in doing a snapshot,” McKenna said then.

That discrepancy in definition is what’s causing confusion.

“Personally, I think it’s a disgrace being led to believe these numbers,” Enook told Nunatsiaq News after hearing Ugyuk describe how Nunavut has 98 homeless people.

Plus, he said it’s unclear whether Ugyuk was talking about people who are homeless in just the three regional hubs or the whole of Nunavut. 

“I think I’m more confused after that statement then I was before,” Enook said with a chuckle. 

“If you look at the [minister’s] statement yesterday, the whole document is not the best of how it’s written. I find it a little bit confusing,” Enook said.

Enook raised his concerns with Ugyuk during question period in the assembly June 3.

He asked why the count didn’t include Pond Inlet, for example — a community that the 2010 survey showed had one of the three highest proportions of temporary residents.

“I just want to let the member know that I’m not really sure how many people are homeless in Tununiq,” Ugyuk said, through an interpreter.

Ugyuk said the count is for those who don’t have roofs over their head at all, which is different from the 2010 survey.

“Some live in tiny tents. And some live in shacks. Those are the types of survey we did in Nunavut,” Ugyuk said.

The survey will help guide the government — with help from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Nunavut Housing Corp. — to address the problem of homelessness, she said.

Her department also wants to work with NTI on an agreed definition of homelessness, she added, and then base policy decisions on that.

“So that we will consider people who have to stay in non-permanent homes as being homeless,” Ugyuk said.

Enook also asked what the department is doing to solve the homelessness problem in Nunavut.

Ugyuk said her department will be working on solutions over the next five years.

In her June 2 minister’s statement, she said the results of this latest survey will be reviewed in community meetings in the three communities.

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