Funding for Iqaluit youth shelter exists but organizations need to apply, says minister
‘It is a matter of having the partners getting together and making it a reality,’ says Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik
In Iqaluit, there is no transitional housing or dedicated safe space for youth to stay overnight, but the funding for it exists, according to the minister of family services.
“It is a matter of having the partners getting together and making it a reality,” said Elisapee Sheutiapik.
She was answering questions from Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone on the subject during question period in Nunavut’s legislative assembly on Monday.
When Lightstone asked whether she would commit to creating a safe shelter for youth in the capital city, Sheutiapik said she would “gladly” make that commitment.
Currently, the women’s shelter in Iqaluit will take in girls under 18 if necessary, but there is nowhere for underage boys to turn.
The Umingmak Centre, a not-for-profit, opened in Iqaluit in October 2020 to help children and youth who have experienced abuse, but it is not an overnight shelter.
“In the first 12 months of operation, [it] provided support to over 80 children,” Lightstone said.
“There is a clear and obvious need for a safe space for youth to go here in Iqaluit.”
The Department of Family Services’ funding for youth support services was increased by $300,000 in Nunavut’s 2020-21 budget.
When members of the legislative assembly voted to make this change, Sheutiapik said the surplus would go towards temporary overnight safe spaces for youth in crisis.
In the winter sitting of the legislative assembly, MLAs voted to increase that again, adding $600,000 to the pool.
The pool of money is split into three, meaning each region has access to $300,000 per fiscal year, Sheutiapik told the legislature.
As well, she said her department recently received $8 million in federal funding to be used for transitional housing over nine years.
So far, two projects in Nunavut have accessed the GN funds for the upcoming year, she said.
Arviat has received $63,712 for the Rise Up program, an after-school program for youth from 14 to 18.
And Cambridge Bay received $300,000 to operate the Okalik Youth Shelter for youth 12 to 16.
For other communities to access this money, organizations need to submit applications to the department.
Sheutiapik said the guidelines for the application have already been distributed to staff in the communities, but “we certainly plan to reach out [again] to ensure the communities take advantage of this new funding.”
In response, Lightstone said he hopes the department has reached out to Iqaluit-based organizations with information on how to access the funding.
On Tuesday, he asked the minister which partner organizations would have to take action to make a safe space for youth in Iqaluit a reality.
She said organizations in the city who already provide similar services like the Uquutaq Society, which operates the men’s homeless shelter, and Agvvik Society, which operates the women’s shelter, would be partners “we would obviously reach out to if we were going to look at having [a youth shelter].”