Iqaluit’s damp shelter set for temporary shutdown July 1

Pilot project ends; GN promises “long-term and stable damp shelter”

Iqaluit’s only damp shelter, located at building 534 on Apex Road, will close temporarily as of July 1, says the Government of Nunavut. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Updated June 28, 10:00 a.m.

Iqaluit’s only damp shelter will temporarily close its doors on July 1, says the Government of Nunavut.

“The department is working to establish and develop a long-term and stable damp shelter program. This includes exploring the feasibility of ongoing funding for the damp shelter and supporting non-profits to strengthen their governance structures to deliver these community-based programs,” a Department of Family Services spokesperson said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

The shelter, located at building 534 on Apex Road, first opened in January of this year as a pilot project, through Nunavut’s Department of Family Services.

A “damp” shelter allows entry to intoxicated people, but does not allow residents to drink on the premises.

Open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Iqaluit’s damp shelter is the only dedicated shelter in the city where intoxicated people can stay. The men’s and women’s shelters in Iqaluit do not allow entry to intoxicated people.

The project was originally scheduled to run until March 31 but was given a three-month extension.

The Family Services spokesperson also said the old building needs renovations.

“For now, the damp shelter will remain empty. The damp shelter does require renovations for it to be fully operational. Access was granted to this space under specific operating procedures in light of the emergency winter conditions,” the spokesperson said.

The department contracted the Inukshuk Guardian Society, a community group that works to help those facing homelessness in Iqaluit, to operate the shelter.

At an Iqaluit city council meeting held on June 25, Coun. Kyle Sheppard read a statement calling on the GN to find emergency funds to keep the shelter open.

“It has saved lives. It has helped the other shelters by keeping staff and clients safe. It has reduced the number of people in RCMP cells,” he said.

“The Department of Family Services has exhausted its available budget. No other Government of Nunavut department has come forward with any funding for this badly needed service.”

He added that while the city is working to secure funding to hold a feasibility study and making lobbying efforts to keep the shelter open, operating the shelter lies within the GN’s responsibilities.

“The facility serves members of a wide range of Nunavut communities, many of whom are in Iqaluit solely to seek other GN services, such as health care,” he said.

Sheppard said while the shelter is referred to as damp, fewer than half of its clients are intoxicated. And over half of its users are not residents of Iqaluit.

Sheppard said he and the rest of council are still working with the GN to find a way to keep the shelter open.

The GN says it receives only limited funding from the federal government for homelessness in Iqaluit, and even less for other communities.

“Currently, the federal government invests only $1.5 million annually for homelessness initiatives in the City of Iqaluit. A small amount is available for projects elsewhere in the territory,” the spokesperson said.

Throughout the pilot project period, the Inukshuk Guardian Society conducted interviews with the shelter’s clients to assess needs and the overall impact of the shelter on the community.

“Certain individuals accessing the shelter have indicated they are using the shelter as an alternative to consuming alcohol in unsafe situations… Most importantly, the statistics demonstrate the shelter’s value in supporting those most at-risk, who struggle to find supports and services elsewhere,” Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik said in the legislature on May 28.

As of May 5, 182 individuals had used the shelter at least once, the majority of them men, Sheutiapik said.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by iqalummiuq on

    Profits from the beer and wine store should be used to keep the damp shelter open.

    • Posted by Iqaluit Rocker on

      Well said Iqalummiuq!

      The GN should slightly raise the price of beer and wine to support the shelter!

  2. Posted by Snow Snake on

    Elisapie Sheutiapik sounds like she’s disconnected from her town.. Seriously? Most people would rather put up tents rather than go to a shelter. NOT everyone has that luxury nor would they be safe out in the open if they’re in a abusive situation.

  3. Posted by Neighbor on

    Never seen so many beer cans, cig packs, used condoms on the hospital hill. They run at capacity so their clients learn to hang around the neighborhood before it opens and cause a ruckus. We have seen intoxicated people trying to talk to the local kids. Huge mess.

  4. Posted by Putuguk on

    This whole business of GN outsourcing services to community groups requires a rethink.

    It is like the community empowerment thing from years ago, only this time within the social envelope.

    Everyone should be able to agree that Nunavummuit have a right of equitable access to critical programs for health and safety such as crisis shelters, men’s and women’s shelters and even things like day-cares.

    If this is so, then providing and accessing these services should not depend on whether there is a barely functioning local group in place that someone is willing to give a derelict building to. This is inequity.

    It is such an easy out for GN administrators. If there is not sufficient numbers of locals stepping forward to dedicate their personal time to these issues, and a community has zero spare infrastructure, it is obviously not a “community priority”. Even though it can be a life or death matter for someone accessing the service, where ever they live in the territory.

    And, when you have to factor in all the overhead this creates – time, money and effort required to support and mentor a local group – registering with societies, continual renos on buildings that should really be bulldozed, having regular meetings, financial administration, training, insurance etc.,

    It must be more just and efficient for the GN to provide the service directly themselves, using clear and transparent program allocation and delivery guidelines.

    • Posted by John Winters on

      I am pretty sure it would cost the GN much more then the $120,000 that was provided to the local group to run this operation on a shoestring budget. Probably double or triple that for the GN to do it, if not more. There is a benefit to the GN, of being able to say they are providing the service, but on the back of volunteers are front line staff. It has been proven that this type of shelter is required. But then so are addiction treatment facilities, and more mental health resources…….I don’t know…….I am worried for the future. I hope things turn around soon. Homelessness, drunkenness, and abuse are all to high, and too widely accepted in Nunavut, and in Iqaluit in particular.

  5. Posted by Don’t blame the Government on

    Don’t blame the Government for not doing enough, who voted to have the b &w store? Why are you complaining now? Too late for your comfort and peace. You brought it in n all your self. You know the crime was already bad enough before you decided to vote. Can’t please anyone! But relax and have a nice cold one! It’s worth it.

    It won’t make any difference if the price goes up, I know people who get drunk just from 2 cans of beers. Imagine a 24. You think you educated about beer.

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