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Picco overjoyed at new homeless shelter

“We know they’re not going to freeze to death on the street.”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DAN BENOIT

When Ed Picco needed a strong, steady hand at the helm of Iqaluit’s troubled homeless shelter, he reached out to the pros.

With Saturday’s official opening of the Oqota shelter by the Salvation Army, hand-picked by Picco to run the organization more than a year ago, Nunavut’s minister for homelessness seems vindicated in his decision.

Picco pointed out that the current shelter, the third to operate in Iqaluit, is the largest facility ever for the homeless. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

Under the direction of the Salvation Army, services at the shelter have been greatly expanded. A larger facility gives the organization a chance to offer outreach programs to people instead of just warehousing them, Picco said.

“We know they’re safe, they’re warm, they can get cleaned up and they’re not going to freeze to death on the street.”

Brian Venables, the divisional secretary for public relations and development for the Salvation Army, said the shelter is always booked solid.

“We’ve been running it for over a year. We rarely have any vacancy.”

The Salvation Army, an international Christian missionary group with branches in more than 120 countries, took over the operation of Iqaluit’s homeless shelter in March 2005 when the former managing group, the Illitiit Society, moved out.

Dignitaries such as Commissioner Christine MacMillan, the leader of the Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda, Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik and Nunavut’s homelessness minister, Ed Picco, officially dedicated the new 20-bed shelter.

Picco’s department picked the Salvation Army to run the shelter after opening the service to competition last year.

The Illitiit Society left after the Nunavut Housing Corp. terminated a lease they had donated. At the time, the Illitiit Society said they were $30,000 in debt and having trouble paying its staff because of delays in federal funding.

The Salvation Army has been running hostels and providing emergency shelter for the down-and-out since the mid-19th century. Aside from the federal government, the Salvation Army is the largest supplier of support services in Canada, providing over 5,000 shelter beds across the country every night.

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