Not within our mandate: GN department informs Aggvik
Shelter scrambles as funding falls through
It's a last-minute scramble for operations and program funding as the YWCA Aggvik Nunavut prepares to open its second shelter for women in Iqaluit.
Caroline Anawak, director of the Aggvik society, which will run both shelters, said their application for funding to operate the new shelter, including running programs, has been turned down by the Nunavut Department of Health and Social Services.
"They said it was not within their mandate to fund it," said a visibly upset Anawak.
She was surprised by the rejection, she said, because their application had been for funding to run mental health programs.
Anawak has now turned to Hunter Tootoo for help, but Sivimmut House's needs (or wants) far surpass the tiny homelessness secretariat's ability to meet them.
The secretariat's annual budget is only $200,000 and the Sivimmut proposal was looking for almost $650,000 a year in operating expenses, Tootoo told Nunatsiaq News, including about $460,000 for staffing.
In fact, the GN has "already spent over $400,000 this year on homelessness," he said.
The secretariat used up its total budget providing $160,000 to support the Oqota Salvation Army Men's Shelter, and about $40,000 to help buy the building that will become Sivimmut House.
It also helped leverage an additional $110,000 for the house purchase from the much larger Department of Education budget, which is where the homelessness secretariat was formerly housed, until the recent cabinet shuffle.
Tootoo said he is looking carefully at the Sivimmut House proposal to identify the critical needs, which he will then try to find funding to support.
As the Minister Responsible for Homelessness, Tootoo said, he wants to make sure the GN doesn't end up paying the shelter to run programs already available elsewhere in the community.
For example, Tootoo said, the Iqaluit Community Tukisigiarvik Society already offers a broad range of counselling, healing, support and skill-development programs that Sivimmut House residents will be able to take advantage of, and that it appears would have been "duplicated under Sivimmut's proposal."
He also found it problematic that Sivimmut sent the same proposal to several different GN departments, including Health and Social Services, Education, and the homelessness secretariat.
He said the Nunavut cabinet is looking at the structure and budget for homelessness, which clearly needs beefing up and reorganizing.
"I hate that title – Minister Responsible for Homelessness," Tootoo added. "We have to change it."
"Right now, homelessness is itself homeless," Tootoo said, without any staff or office, and that tiny $200,000 budget.
"In a perfect world" he would like to see "at least a phone number and a person," so that community organizations like Sivimmut House could bring their needs to a coordinator who would help them navigate the government departments to find funding.
For example, he said, one section of a proposal might be of interest to the health department, while another would be most appropriately dealt with by education, and the homelessness secretariat might best handle a third section.
"It's a kind of one-stop shopping concept," he said. To have the homelessness secretariat provide a coordination function would mean that three different departments are not getting the same proposal for the whole thing.
But Tootoo argues the fact that education came up with $110,000 out of its own budget to help buy Sivimmut House, shows "there is a willingness to try to help."
The new Sivimmut House, which sits at the corner of Queen Elizabeth Way and Paunna (the entrance to Happy Valley), will be specifically for women facing issues of homelessness.
The Qimaavik shelter in Apex will continue to serve as a safe haven for women fleeing violence.
The building, which should be able to house upwards of 10 women, is undergoing renovations and is scheduled to open in April.