Last-minute cash saves shelter from closure

GN provides extra funds to Cambridge Bay facility just hours before decision to shut it down

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DENISE RIDEOUT

Cambridge Bay’s crisis shelter got a windfall of cash this week — just hours before the hamlet was to make the decision to shut down the facility for lack of funds.

The community’s crisis shelter has been running a $15,000 deficit since January, and Mayor Keith Peterson had until Feb. 18 to come up with some funding options.

Peterson had to decide that day whether it was possible to save the shelter, and he had to present his decision to the hamlet’s finance committee, which was to meet that evening.

At 1:20 p.m., a simple e-mail changed everything.

The message, from the Nunavut government’s department of health, said the department would chip in the money Cambridge Bay needed to keep the shelter open.

The shelter, which opened in 1994, is a three-bedroom house that offers victims of domestic violence a safe place to stay.

Each year the Health department provides $75,000 to the hamlet of Cambridge Bay to run the shelter.

But the money never seems to be enough, the mayor said. While prices for fuel, food and other things needed at the shelter have gone up since 1994, the yearly funding has remained stagnant.

“We can’t keep doing this every year. It’s nerve wrecking,” Peterson said, letting out a sigh.

Last year, for instance, the hamlet had to turn to the health department to get an extra $25,000 to continue operating the shelter.

But in 2002, the shelter was much worse off. By the end of January, it was already in the hole. “We actually ran out of money, so now we were using our own hamlet money, which is in short supply,” Peterson said.

If it continued funding the shelter with its own money, the hamlet would eventually have racked up a $32,000 deficit.

Peterson began lobbying the health department for additional money. After about two weeks of hounding government officials, Peterson’s request for $32,000 was answered.

The mayor said he’s relieved the government has stepped in to help. “The crisis shelter is important to the people,” he said Monday evening by phone from Cambridge Bay.

“It would have been a major loss. When there’s domestic violence in the house, the social workers and other people have to get in there and remove the family from a dangerous environment. Where would you move them to?” Peterson said.

Daphne Kavanna, co-ordinator of the crisis shelter, was never worried the place would be shut down. That’s because, she said, the shelter is too vital to the community. Besides offering services to women and children in Cambridge Bay, the shelter serves victims from across the Kitikmeot region.

“It’s a good place,” Kavanna said.”The women know where to go and who to see. It’s a trustworthy place.”

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