Survey reveals just how hidden homelessness can be in Nunavut

“It definitely gives us a sense of the impact on that part of the population”

A new report on hidden homelessness in Nunavut highlights the critical need for respite: places where people can go for short periods of time to escape the stresses created by overcrowding and homelessness. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

A newly released report tries to put a number on how many Nunavummiut struggle with homelessness, while explaining the complexities of securing a place to live in the territory.

The Nunavut Hidden Homelessness Survey was conducted by the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Family Services in 2018. The results were tabled in the legislative assembly last month.

The survey looked at homelessness in four different communities—Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Arviat and Gjoa Haven—estimating that more than 400 people in those communities have either no home or they sleep at multiple homes, sometimes in front porches or shacks.

The report found that between five and 11 per cent of children in those communities identified as housing insecure.

The department also did a “point-in-time” survey of shelter usage in Nunavut communities that have those facilities: Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Kugaaruk, Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet.

In 2018-19, the report found that 252 unique clients accessed one of Nunavut’s three homeless shelters. And that same year, 290 women and 279 children sought safety at one of the territory’s five family violence shelters.

“The numbers aren’t surprising to us,” said Lindsay Turner, director of poverty reduction at Nunavut’s Department of Family Services.

“I think we learned a little bit more about numbers that were specific to children and youth. It really pulled out some data around some circumstances that families are facing as a result of the housing crisis.”

Turner said the report’s numbers may not be representative of the entire territory, noting that each Nunavut community has its own special circumstances.

But the territory undoubtedly faces a housing shortage, and that’s obvious in the numbers: Nunavut Housing Corp. estimates the need for some 3,500 new houses across the territory.

But survey respondents listed a number of reasons why they are home insecure, from illness, to climate, to job loss or family conflict.

“Homelessness is a complex issue and it’s more than just being without a home,” Turner said.

MLAs reacted to the report in the legislative assembly this past week, calling on the government to deliver services to help support Nunavummiut who are experiencing different kinds of homelessness.

Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main said the report highlighted the hopelessness of many living situations in Nunavut and illustrated how homelessness is related to overcrowding, poverty, food insecurity, addictions and violence.

Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak noted that his home community has the highest percentage of residents experiencing different aspects of homelessness, with the majority of them “couch surfing” or sleeping in different homes.

“The report discusses the critical need for respite places where people can go for short periods of time to escape the stresses created by overcrowding and homelessness,” Akoak told the legislative assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 27, during question period.

“Respite spaces could include daytime, evening or overnight drop-in spaces; land-based healing retreats; quiet spaces to rest; or places to do daily activities like preparing food, laundry, using the phone or internet or socializing. Gjoa Haven has no such respite places whatsoever.”

Turner said the concept of respite has been raised in many communities—in the report and in other consultations. Her department is already working with one hamlet that wants to create a community-use cabin to support on-the-land programming.

“We’d wanted to do this survey to really bring attention to some of the communities’ coping mechanism—that definitely gives us a sense of the impact on that part of the population,” Turner said.

“Just getting a break from the house is something that can support the issue of homelessness.”

Turner said her department has already invited communities to share their ideas for local initiatives to help combat homelessness and, in turn, they’ll help connect hamlets with funding sources.

The Nunavut government is also in the process of hiring homelessness outreach workers to work alongside other frontline workers in three communities: Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet and Pond Inlet.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hopeless Leadership in Nunavut. on

    Lindsay Turner, what is the point of communities submitting ideas when you know fine that
    none of our leaders will take any notice of what Nunavut people say !
    Each community has large public buildings which are heated and have toilets, such as
    schools, gymnasiums, community halls which are heated and empty most of the time
    and should be used by unfortunate Inuit people, all over Nunavut.
    So dear Nunavut leaders, Help your people ! ! !

  2. Posted by Long term on

    For the long term planning, the GN and Inuit orgs should look at supporting education more along with food programs in schools.
    More Inuit graduating high school then go onto either trades or University/college and get a degree.

    Start planning now for 10-20 years down the road, more Inuit finishing higher education the better, jobs for them and their own homes. Good for the economy in Nunavut also, less money flowing out of the territory.

  3. Posted by Colin on

    Inuit need to know they have a trust fund (like Justin Trudeau’s) that has their money in it. There’s some $50,000 for every single man, woman and child. Baffin Inuit each have some $15,000 more from the iron mine royalties.

    The NTI money in trust is worth some $200,000 for a family of four. That would go a long way toward providing housing. I’m not suggesting the money should simply be paid out. The trust should be allocated per family, like Trudeau’s trust. Then the trustees would be empowered to invest in housing that belongs to each family. The technical term is the statutory power of advancement, and it allows trustees to look after the best interest of beneficiaries.

    Instead, this fund makes millions for investment advisors in the South—none of them Inuit—and it supports a superfluous bureaucracy in parallel with GN.

  4. Posted by Inuit money for Inuit people on

    True words indeed Colin, Inuit people have the right to their own money !
    The NTI , and other Inuit organizations have been ripping off their own Inuit people
    for years and blaming colonizers.
    Nothing will be done until Inuit stand up to their organizations and demand their rights.
    Go for it Inuit people.

    • Posted by Want your money? on

      Man it would be something to see if all the trust money was made available on a per capita basis to anyone that wanted their entitlement.

  5. Posted by So what is happening ? on

    N.T.I. had so much to say about the Edmonton football team !
    When are they going to start talking to us beneficiaries about the money they are holding
    for us. Very quiet about that !
    Can we take legal action to find out what is going on ?
    Is there anyway they can be made accountable ?

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