Uquutaq Society to open daytime warming centre in Iqaluit

Program will run Monday to Friday until March 31

Uquutaq Society executive director Laurel McCorriston works in her office Tuesday morning. The organization will open a warming centre at its low-barrier shelter during the day weekdays until the end of March. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Starting Wednesday, homeless people in Iqaluit will have somewhere to go during the day for a bite to eat and to escape the cold.

Uquutaq Society is offering a warming centre that will be open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Building 534, the location of its low-barrier overnight shelter, until March 31.

Plans to offer the service have been in the works since the fall because the society had $100,000 leftover in its budget, said executive director Laurel McCorriston, the executive director of the charity that provides shelters and transitional housing.

The problem, however, was that there wasn’t anyone available to run it.

“We wanted to start in January, but we just couldn’t,” she said in an interview.

Now the society has a program director and enough money to run the warming centre until the end of March.

People who stay at the overnight shelter will be required to leave at 8 a.m., as usual. That will give its staff a chance to clean up and move cots and chairs. When the warming centre opens at 10, there will be snacks, coffee, lunch, soup and oatmeal available.

It will be for adults only, and can accommodate 25 to 30 people at one time.

McCorriston hopes the Government of Nunavut can provide some on-site mental health services.

“We’re just going to grow it while we’re running it,” she said.

McCorriston said demand for this type of service is very high in Iqaluit — homeless people often have nowhere to go during the day and end up in office lobbies, at grocery stores and other public places.

The society will probably have to turn people away, she said.

Environment Canada’s forecast for Iqaluit over the next week calls for temperatures in the mid -30s C, and they could drop to -42 C Thursday night.

McCorriston said this year’s program will serve as a pilot project. Uquutaq hopes to document where its clients are coming from, what age and gender they are, if they are returning clients, and how many have to be turned away due to a lack of capacity.

These statistics will help show other organizations and levels of government what the needs are in Iqaluit.

It’s also to help Uquutaq tailor its future services to the needs of Nunavummiut because this is just one of several new projects the society has been working on, she said.

On Tuesday, Uquutaq officially became the landowner of the old Nunavut Country Food Store, which McCorriston said will be the location of its newest addition to the low-barrier shelter program. The low-barrier shelter allows people to come in even if they are drunk.

The hope is that within the next three years, Uquutaq will have a brand new building that can accommodate about 40 beds, a warming centre, kitchen and transitional housing program.

It’s welcome news, on the heels of having to close its low-barrier shelter for two weekends over Christmas due to staffing issues, McCorriston said.

“This is the thing that keeps me getting up in the morning despite all the operational challenges, we have that to look forward to and the organization’s still moving forward,” she said.


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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Makigiarit on

    That is good to hear, homeless individuals need dignity and when you don’t have a place to call your own it is hard enough without being labelled ‘homeless’. The more programs are created, the easier it may be to learn to be independent again to have a sense of place without being looked down upon. One step at a time.

  2. Posted by jim craimer on

    we at nbc are amazed this woman still has a job in Nunavut…. seriously

    • Posted by winky on

      Why’s that? Seems like she’s doing a job that needs doing, and no one else seems to want to do it.

    • Posted by Fred on

      Yeah, bud. Makes total sense. Who wants to help the homeless, right?

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