Uquutaq Society withdraws plan to open new homeless shelter in Iqaluit
Society says Nunavut government won’t provide needed money
Iqaluit’s Uquutaq Society is holding off on its plan to run a revamped shelter in the Lower Base neighbourhood, saying that it hasn’t received enough funding from the Government of Nunavut.
“We can’t afford to run at a deficit,” Laurel McCorriston, the society’s executive director.
The society recently withdrew its application with the city to turn its former men’s shelter into a 42-bed shelter for both men and women. It would have been “low-barrier,” meaning it would have allowed people who are intoxicated inside.
The proposal had undergone a public consultation and a public hearing was scheduled this month.
The society currently runs a 60-bed homeless shelter and transitional home at buildings 1077 and 1079 and a low-barrier shelter at Building 534.
McCorriston said the society had asked the Department of Family Services — which funds around 85 per cent of its operations — for $1.3 million, but received $821,000. That’s up from the $671,000 it received last year.
“When we agreed to take on the low-barrier shelter with the Department of Family Services, the deal was we were only going to do it if it was going to be fully funded,” she said.
But running the shelter has become more costly, the result of increased labour expenses.
The society has improved its cleaning regime and increased the hourly wage for its staff from $20 to $25 per hour. It’s also included benefits to help retain employees since McCorriston began working there in 2019, she said.
“Uquutaq has sort of increased the standard — as it should be done — but that does come with costs,” she said.
Jodi Durdle-Awa, director of policy and planning for the Department of Family Services, declined to say why the society hadn’t received the funding it requested, but said “the department remains committed to working with Uquutaq to find solutions to their projected funding shortfall.”
“Government funding alone is not sufficient … we need all stakeholders and the entire community of Iqaluit to come together to provide support to organizations like Uquutaq Society,” she said.
“It is our view that the Department of Family Services should be fully funding the shelters,” she said.
Without additional space, Uquutaq will have to keep turning away homeless people during the busy winter months, McCorriston said.
“People who spent last winter out will do it again this year,” she said.
“It’s at least one person a day that we turn away at the homeless shelter [who] will continue to be turned away. These people have to go to unsafe places and they have to go outside for shelter.”
The society has board meetings planned in August and an annual general meeting in September, where its board will decide which direction the society will head.
“We’ll have to regroup,” she said.