Yellowknife's day shelter and sobering centre at night. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
After receiving no bids this summer, the GNWT is making another attempt to find a contractor to run Yellowknife’s day shelter and sobering centre.
Similarly, the GNWT received no response when it put out a call for expressions of interest for an organization to run Inuvik’s shelter, housing minister Paulie Chinna confirmed in the legislature last week.
When this happened, Chinna said, “We soon identified that we need to further look at the training that we need to provide to the NGOs (non governmental organizations) in the [Beaufort Delta] region and throughout the Northwest Territories as well.”
“We will be working with the NGOs addressing homelessness differently because we do need to provide adequate training and look for further funding for these program initiatives,” she said, noting in Inuvik, her department is currently working with NGOs and Indigenous governments to try and find a solution.
While the search for contractors continues, the GNWT continues to run the shelters. The government has been operating Yellowknife’s day and sobering shelter since March 2022, and Inuvik’s shelters since July 2021. What was meant to be a temporary measure to keep the shelters going has been extended as no contractors want the job.
Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby questioned how sustainable it is for the GNWT to pay employees to run the shelter in Inuvik, focusing on that non-profits don’t just need more training – they also need adequate funding.
“I’m curious to know how we’re going to afford to run the shelter with GNWT employees over the wintertime,” she questioned. “We all know that the GNWT is the most lucrative employer in the North for the most part, and we know that we when we want the NGOs to [run the shelters], we don’t give them any money for it.”
An Inuvik shelter manager previously told Cabin Radio the shelter’s board needed to fundraise an additional $30,000 to $50,000 yearly on top of territorial funding just to keep the shelter open before the GNWT took over, and would sometimes skip paying utility bills just so they could afford to pay staff.
Chinna said she would have to come back to Nokleby’s question about the GNWT’s ability to continue managing the shelters and paying employees to work at them, but noted right now, the important thing is to keep the shelters open.
More time for submissions, NTHSSA says
The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority said the scope of work in the most recent request for proposals for someone to run Yellowknife’s day shelter and sobering centre and hasn’t changed since the last time the request for proposals was posted, but that the timeframe to submit a proposal has been lengthened to six weeks from the previous three weeks.
This is to allow contractors more time to put together proposals before the December 1 deadline, the authority said.
“We are currently working to extend this process (further beyond the six weeks) and will be offering a presentation to potential proponents to provide more information if this is of interest to those who are considering submitting a proposal,” said a spokesperson.
The NWT Disabilities Council had been running a combined day shelter and sobering centre on 50 Street until March 2022, when its contract ended with the GNWT.
The disabilities council told the health authority it did not want to extend its contact while the search for a new contractor took place, citing initial uncertainty about such an extension and a need to look to new projects.