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

Iqaluit does not have a shelter or safe space dedicated to youth, but funding for such an operation exists, according to the minister of family services. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Mélanie Ritchot

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].”

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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Beach kids on

    This needs to be priority, so little money for our future generations. Millions get given to the Utuuq society and only $600,000 for our future. Why such a big gap? There is a huge need for a safe place for youth with nowhere to go, they are outside all night long and often inevitably end up getting into trouble. After Mr Roy, a troubled youth got turned away from the shelters, as a territory we should be all outraged that youth have no safe space to go. Our system failed him and many more. It is heartbreaking to know lives are at stake while this topic goes often under the radar and there are no advocates for our future leaders.

    All the media attention goes to the damp shelter and adult shelters, as a community we should be outraged that once again our youth are being let down.

  2. Posted by Wade Thorhaug on

    Non-profits operating in the territory face a number of systemic challenges to realizing large projects like these. Staffing is a perpetual problem when most NPOs lack staff housing and other benefits typical with large employers like the GN, and it is often difficult to justify wages that can compete with equivalent roles in the public sector. Most funding streams (including this one) only apply for one or two fiscal years, making it difficult to plan a large project without knowing if it will be sustainable in the long run. And when it comes to an overnight shelter, the options for usable facilities are next to none in most communities. While it is great to have funding available for independent service providers, for large undertakings like this other supports are sorely needed.

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