Displaced boarding house residents have shelter for now

Thirty-two people left homeless after Newman's Boarding House closed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay have managed to find temporary places to live.

Groups, government acknowledge longer-term solution desperately needed

Displaced boarding house resident George Decker (right) is shown with his brother Jerry Igloliorte outside the Salvation Army building in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (CBC)

Thirty-two people left homeless after their boarding house closed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay have managed to find temporary places to live.

But it's the long term, and continued shortage of emergency housing options, that has the community and the Newfoundland and Labrador government concerned.

The owners of Newman's Boarding House decided to shut it down on about 24 hours' notice, after operating for about 30 years. They've said they simply couldn't afford to keep it going.

That left their residents  most with mental illnesses and criminal records — with nowhere to go.

The Salvation Army's Brent Haas says the response from the community to the sudden closure of Newman's Boarding House was nothing short of miraculous. (CBC)
Salvation Army pastor Brent Hass says there's a word for what happened after the boarding house closed on April 15.

"I think it was nothing less than a miracle, in my mind, of what took place in less than 48 hours," Hass told CBC.

The organization provided temporary shelter and meals in the immediate aftermath of the shutdown. And government social workers managed to find community housing for the next couple of nights until longer-term accommodations could be found for everyone.

But in a community already plagued by homelessness and a lack of housing, that was no easy task  particularly for people with mental health and addictions issues.

Despite that, the 32 displaced residents have since settled into new surroundings with family, friends, or community housing,

The Salvation Army held an Easter dinner for them this past weekend, with most sharing positive reviews of their new digs.

"The house I'm living in right now is ... very good," said Amelia Tuglavina. "We can wash our own clothes. Hot water and cold water. It's good. Number one!"

"It's good," added Johnny Kohlmeister. "It has three rooms, a bathroom, a closet for towels and stuff, a hallway kitchen, basement, backdoor ... ."

George Decker spent the past week with his brother's family, but it was already a packed house. His brother, Jerry Igloliorte, says the community needs more space for people who need help.

"Needs more improvement around here in Goose Bay ... for the people that's been in and out places, and now they have nowhere to go. So it's about time."

No room

Igloliorte would like to house his brother for the long term, but simply doesn't have the space.

"I say they needs a place now. Sooner the better," he said.

The provincial government, meanwhile, says it's working on it.

"I commend each and every one of the groups that are working with us because the community came together along with my staff on the ground," said Kevin O'Brien, the minister responsible for housing. "But now we've got to get together in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to come up with a long-term solution."

O'Brien acknowledged current accommodations for the 32 former boarding house residents aren't permanent. But he said his department is working with the Nunatsiavut government and other stakeholders to find ones that are.

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