Iqaluit’s “damp” shelter moved to new location
Emergency facility on Apex Road now open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Nunavut’s Department of Family Services has moved a new night-time “damp” shelter from the Iqaluit soup kitchen to a more permanent location: building 534 on the Apex Road in Iqaluit, the Department of Family Services said yesterday.
This building, which used to serve as the Akausisarvik mental health facility, will now act as an emergency shelter of last resort for people who cannot gain entry to other shelters.
A “damp” shelter allows entry to intoxicated people. But, in contrast to a “wet” shelter, it does not allow residents to drink on the premises.
The emergency shelter started the week before at the Qajuqturvik Food Centre, following Qikiqtani General Hospital’s decision to no longer allow people to sleep there unless they were in need of medical care. The hospital cited dangers to patients and staff.
Only part of building 534, which requires repairs, is open for “emergency, exceptional access,” said Lindsay Turner, director of poverty reduction for Nunavut’s Department of Family Services.
“The damp shelter was identified as a need, particularly in the winter months.”
In winter, “it’s a life and death scenario if someone doesn’t have a place to go,” she said.
The damp shelter, which is open between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., has seen anywhere from a handful to 15 clients each night. It’s open to everyone, but Turner said the space is not suitable for children, because it’s meant to help people who are intoxicated and have nowhere else to go.
The shelter is simple, offering a cot and blanket. Sometimes coffee, tea and snacks are available.
Family Services is working closely on the project with the Inukshuk Guardian Society, a community group that works to help those facing homelessness in Iqaluit. Anyone wishing to make donations should contact the society.
“There’s a need for a lot more,” said Turner, who is also working on a survey project to identify the hidden homeless in Nunavut.
Nunavut has no transitional housing and all emergency shelters in the territory are filled beyond capacity, she said. There is no addictions treatment centre in Nunavut.
The women’s shelter and men’s shelter in Iqaluit are both at capacity, and they do not allow highly intoxicated people to come inside.
“This project is helping us to create a low-barrier access space,” Turner said. After making contacts at the shelter, clients can be referred to other programs and supports.
Turner stressed that the shelter is a pilot project that will be assessed week by week throughout the winter.