The homeless shelter in Inuvik, N.W.T., has closed its doors for good, while territorial government officials are working with the town's homeless to find alternatives.
The shelter was locked after its overnight clients left at 10 a.m. MT Thursday, as the organization that operated the facility struggles with rising costs.
Running the shelter, which was housed in a 20-year-old building, has left the Nihtat Gwich'in Council with a $50,000 annual deficit, despite efforts to cut costs and generate sponsorships, according to band officials.
More than 20 people would stay at the shelter on some winter nights, with upwards of five people sleeping in one bedroom. About 10 people stayed at the shelter in the days before it closed down.
Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland, who is the MLA for Inuvik Boot Lake, said government officials are trying to find spaces in public housing — or even in hotel rooms — for shelter clients.
"As the community continues to wrestle with this, we're there, through our departments, to help fund a number of beds for those that are in absolute need," Roland told CBC News.
Barbara Crawford, band administrator with the Nihtat Gwich'in Council, said while she appreciates what the government has done so far, she fears some people will still be left on the street.
"We've been working with them to fill out housing applications for the Inuvik Housing Authority [and] working with income support, so that they have a few options there," Crawford said.
"A couple have made arrangements with family. There's a couple that we really don't know what's going to happen to them."
The N.W.T. government provided $180,000 in annual funding to Inuvik's homeless shelter program. The Town of Inuvik did not provide direct funding for the centre, although it rented out the facility for $1 a year.
Crawford has said it cost the Gwich'in council about $300,000 to keep the shelter open last year.