Uquutaq Society withdraws plan to open new homeless shelter in Iqaluit

Society says Nunavut government won’t provide needed money

Uquutaq Society’s plan to transform the former men’s shelter in Iqaluit’s Lower Base neighbourhood into a co-ed, low-barrier shelter has been withdrawn due to a lack of funding. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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.

McCorriston disagrees.

“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.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Do something, anything, NTI? on

    Maybe NTI could step up for once and help fill in the funding gap?

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Great idea! NTI continually bleats about the need for housing, treatment centers and homeless shelters for Inuit and then brings absolutely zero resources to the table to assist with implementation. Perhaps if they started putting their money behind their rhetoric, some of these problems might become less dire.

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      • Posted by Store on

        Ask for asistance from City and an Inuit Organization to reopen it as a second hand store or other store. This is a great opportunity today for Inuit

        • Posted by Niuviqvik on

          Ideal for the second hand store who is got “EVICTED” – definiation of eviction?

          this old place is good for second hand store and the room is bigger.

  2. Posted by “Increased the standard” on

    “Uquutaq has sort of increased the standard — as it should be done — but that does come with costs,” she said.

    She needs to elaborate on this. Especially considering how many long term clients who have left the shelter since 2019 to live in shacks on the beach, citing feeling unsafe, and unable to access support at the Uquutaq society. One of the most recent missing men is one of those clients.

    Is the increased costs as a result of a much safer and mould free building? Taxes, utilities and the such? Considering 778 was over $10,000 a month, crumbling, and full of mould, they were long overdue to tear down that building and move on. Or is it increased costs as a result of the hiring of 3 more Managers, who also get subsidized housing?

    It is interesting how the original non for profit that was founded to manage the low barrier shelter ran it on such a small budget with 10 staff, and now they cannot afford to operate it with 3 staff. The two men who spearheaded that effort did sort of take all the credit and mysteriously leave town with 6 months of it operating. They did however volunteer most of their time for it, they spend all their evenings and weekends delivering food, supplies to the homeless. I wonder if Laurel is willing to help out more and volunteer her time as well? She is very vocal about what’s happening and placing blame, and is not offering any solutions other then financial support.

    If you really feel it is such a “crime against the homeless”, then please show your commitment. If you are as committed as you say then maybe opt for voluntary wage freezes for management? Donate some evenings or weekends, seek out residents help with monetary donations. Everyone agrees that homelessness needs to be addressed, many of us have friends, family, and coworkers struggling. Start a fundraising campaign, food donation campaign. See if any companies are willing to donate, or offer reduced utility rates, lower tax rates. Anything that can be a real change and solution.

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    • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

      Uquutaq right now is toxic environment, so many clients get kicked out due to the staff being rude and mean to the clients when there intoxicated, and when under the influence you cannot be rude or mean to the person and it almost always bad out come, some one with mental health conditions is a good example, anyone who is a public servant can not be rude or mean to a client with special needs which will have a negative out come. Last month I got kicked out because a staff called me stupid, yes stupid and of course no positive out come. We the client need serious help, I have tried to reach out to the chairmen of the board with and E-mail even CC the deputy mayor with no reply or much less and help. “HELP” how many of us homeless guys need to die before anything is done. Being and Inuit we are looked down upon and treated like we are lower people then the managements.

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  3. Posted by Qikiqtaalummiu on

    so the strategy was scrap for betterment.? there was amount of good funding and other through housing and publli sector,when the prices of wood went up local buisness should have opened up there wallets and assist the public, the vast amount of local business is making tons of money and not supporting the local infrastructure .need to be a team player to support the cost and funds when in crisis due to the cost of daily taxes and the market in place.Bigger business ca support at a cost and the local contractors can assist plus the welfare system can be a huge different along with the Federal and public city system.The Mayor as a big roll to play here either freeze the public or the assets that need to be paid>? strategy is important and raiseing taxing is not the issue at the moment if the public wants betterment and future engagements in development for everyone .

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  4. Posted by Northern guy on

    This extra 200,000 will help,needs a watch dog how the money is spent

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