Nunavik’s newest safe haven, closer to home
“When you’re in a bad situation, it’s hard to leave town”
Nunavik’s fourth women’s shelter opened its doors to families in need along the Hudson coast a year ago.
Today, Inukjuak’s Ajapirvik shelter is able to offer a safe haven for victims of violence, and those who run it say they’re fortunate to be able to offer this service so close to home.
“It is a need not just for our community but for neighbouring communities too,” said Siasi Smiler Irqumia, president of Ajapirvik’s board of directors. “This has been helpful for women along this coast.
Ajapirvik roughly translates into English as “a safe haven,” or the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’ve been lucky,” Irqumia said. “We have our down days, but we’re really happy with how things are going.”
Before Ajapirvik opened, women in Inukjuak who needed to escape violent situations had to travel to one of three other shelters in Nunavik.
Tungasuvvik shelter has been open in Kuujjuaq since 1992, Tunngavik in Kuujjuaraapik since 1996, and Initsiaq in Salluit since 1998.
The five-bedroom Inukjuak shelter can hold a maximum of 16 women and children, although the centre was only at it fullest this summer, with 12 residents.
The majority of women who use the centre are local or from neighbouring Puvirnituq, although women from Akulivik and Umiujaq have stayed there too, Irqumia said.
“We haven’t done it yet, but we’ve also talked about taking in elder (victims) to support them for short stays,” said Irqumia, who also works with Nunalituqait Ikajuqatigiitut’s wellness group. “We often see situations where they are being abused.”
Ajapirvik’s two directors and three full-time caregivers tend to clients, organizing fishing, hunting and berry-picking excursions for their guests.
Ajapirvik’s director, Annie Weetaluktuk, says they hope to offer a beading workshop soon. In the meantime, the shelter works in partnership with Inukjuak’s family house to offer activities to women and children.
Weetaluktuk said Ajarpirvik is hoping to secure some more funding from Brighter Futures to pay for programming.
The shelter is funded by Nunavik board of health and social services, Nunavik’s Ungaluk or Safer Communities program and through donations made by offenders who go through the court system.
The shelter may benefit from the help of two new victim services workers which the health board plans to hire and post in Kuujjuaq and Salluit once housing becomes available.
For now, victims in Inukjuak can access support from local social workers or from victim services in Kuujjuaq over the phone.
But the more on-site services, the better, Weetaluktuk said.
“Because when you’re in a bad situation, it’s hard to leave town,” she said.