Fort Simpson to discuss options for village warming shelter
The Village of Fort Simpson will hold a public meeting on Thursday to talk about the future of its warming shelter.
At a meeting on February 21, the village’s council indicated it would prefer another group assumed control of the warming centre from next winter.
“What I hear is that everybody’s in favour of a shelter. We’d like to see a shelter operating in Fort Simpson, just not through the village,“ Fort Simpson Mayor Sean Whelly said at the February council meeting.
The shelter was established by a group of residents in December 2020 as a safe place for vulnerable people at risk.
Initially run by volunteers, ongoing operation of the shelter fell to the village when no other group came forward.
While the centre had been conceived as a place for people to warm up, it became apparent that some people – either stranded in Fort Simpson without transportation or kicked out of their homes for the night – needed overnight stays.
The village remained responsible for the shelter this winter when no other operators applied to run it, but councillors have queried the financial arrangements in place for the centre and the apparent lack of a backup plan if the former Unity Store, its current location, were no longer available.
The shelter, which has received $200,000 in funding for this winter from the NWT Housing Corporation, has enough cash to run until March 31.
Village senior administrator Kevin Corrigan said there may be other ways to keep a shelter operating in future years.
Suggestions offered by councillors included building a dedicated shelter structure and involving smaller, nearby Dehcho communities since some shelter users come from outside Fort Simpson.
Whelly has also suggested asking the territorial government to run the shelter or help coordinate its operation.
Councillor Kyle Christiansen said the village should provide a detailed operational budget so the next group to run the shelter has a clearer picture of what is expected.
Whelly said he worries no other group has the capacity to take on the shelter, meaning the only options would be the village again assuming responsibility or the shelter closing down.
“It’s a small town. We don’t have all the not-for-profit organizations Yellowknife has,” he said. “It’s not so much like ‘where are the people,’ the people here are stretched very thin.
“There’s a chance that nobody steps up and we have to be ready to still provide some kind of safety net for the people who need it.”
Thursday’s consultation with residents, to be held at the village recreation centre at 6pm, will be streamed live to the village’s YouTube page.