The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation says it aims to have Inuvik’s emergency warming centre and overnight shelter up and running by early October, after taking over operation of both facilities.
As first reported by NNSL, the housing corporation terminated its contribution agreement with the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre Society nearly two weeks ago, in a letter to the society’s board members.
The corporation has since confirmed to Cabin Radio that it will be running both shelter facilities in collaboration with the Town of Inuvik, Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.
“Our partners at the Inuvik emergency warming centre suffered numerous issues in trying to maintain a safe and supportive program, including the resignations and departures of successive managers, numerous board resignations, continuous board vacancies, and insufficient staff training,” Ben Fraser, a spokesperson for the housing corporation wrote in an email.
Fraser said the Covid-19 pandemic “presented many challenges in supporting persons experiencing homelessness.”
He said the housing corporation believes transitioning from stand-alone shelter boards to a collaborative model with multiple partners, alongside consulting shelter users, will “help ensure that the programming is respectful, culturally appropriate, and inclusive.”
Inuvik’s warming centre has had a rocky year.
A contentious meeting last October saw a majority of board members resign, according to reports from CBC and NNSL. Prior to that, the centre faced difficulties securing a lease, as well as accommodating social distancing in its limited space during the pandemic.
Last month, Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler drew attention to burnout on the volunteer board of the warming centre in the Legislative Assembly. She called for the territorial government to provide more direct support to the operation of the shelter.
The facility – which is the only place in Inuvik where people who are intoxicated can get a warm meal and have a place to sleep – has been closed for the summer season since mid-May.
Hiring to restaff both facilities is slated to take place over the next two months.
Fraser said the housing corporation is in the process of developing a training plan, which will include trauma-informed practices, mental health first aid, cultural sensitivity, and conflict de-escalation.
The housing corporation has sent an invoice to the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre Society for $132,000 for the return of funding that was provided to operate the centre this winter, minus funds that were already spent.
Correction: July 30, 2021 – 11:33 MT. A previous version of this article stated the NWTHC had asked the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre Society for $132,000 to be returned. In fact, only unspent funds are to be returned. The article has been updated accordingly.