Iqaluit city council approves funds for COVID-19 homelessness response
Over $350,000 being split between Uquutaq Society, YWCA Agvvik and the Qajuqturvik Food Centre
Iqaluit city councillors have approved the allocation of $351,200 to three local organizations helping with the city’s ongoing COVID-19 homelessness response.
The funds are a part of a $600,000 commitment to the City of Iqaluit under the Government of Canada’s $82-billion COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, which was announced last month.
Part of that nation-wide economic response plan included $157.5 million to Reaching Home, which supports community-based programs aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness.
Iqaluit’s COVID-19 task force, which includes community organizations as well as representatives from the Government of Nunavut and QIA, provided recommendations on how the city’s share of the funds would be distributed.
The task force meets at least once a week to share information about the city’s ongoing pandemic response, to identify gaps in services and to help connect groups who offer services to the community.
“The amount of work that’s being done and the pace it’s being done at is incredible,” said Deputy Mayor Janet Brewster, who chairs the task force.
“So many people are working so hard with the focus of making sure that the citizens of Iqaluit are safe, that they’re fed and that they are aware of any programs that become available.”
Since the task force was created nearly four weeks ago, Brewster has seen its focus shift as a response to the pandemic’s progression.
“In the first few meetings we discussed, OK, what can we do now? What are your needs right now? How can we help you serve those needs?” she said.
“Now we’ve asked them to consider planning for three months and in advance.”
Last month, and part of the last fiscal year, $100,000 went to the Uquutaq Society to acquire an additional location to be used as an isolation space for up to 15 vulnerable or elderly men.
This month, an additional $500,000 was committed to the city, also through the Reaching Home Program, the allocation of which was approved by Iqaluit city council during a special meeting on Monday afternoon.
$200,000 of this new funding will also go to Uquutaq.
According to Laurel McCorriston, Uquutaq’s executive director, half of these new funds will support operations at the new isolation shelter with the other half going to cover COVID-19 related expenses at the existing men’s shelter.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uquutaq has lost three regularly scheduled staff members due to fears that if the virus came to the shelter that they would take it home with them.
With the addition of the new site, Uquutaq staff will be further split, prompting them to hire security which allows for one person to be on site at all times. In addition to security, Uquutaq’s COVID-19 response has also required them to increase their cleaning activities.
“Between those two contracts, that’s a fair bit of money and then we have all the extra supplies, the masks, the gloves, the sanitizers and everything that goes into doing all that work to keep the place sanitized,” said McCorriston.
While the new location has yet to open, McCorriston says that they’re mostly set up and ready, with the exception of someone to cover weekend shifts and the installation of Northwestel services, which she hopes can be expedited.
Of the remaining allocated funds, $105,000 will go to the YWCA Agvvik women’s shelters, including $90,000 for additional isolation space and $15,000 for supplies.
Another $46,200 will go to support the Qajuqturvik Food Centre with its operations and to purchase supplies for take-out and food distribution.
In addition to those dispersed funds, another $148,800 remains as an emergency fund that can be distributed as needed to future COVID-19 response initiatives.