Advocates are calling on politicians in Nunavut to do more to protect the homeless, after an Iqaluit man died in a shack fire last month.
Douglas Cox, the executive director of the men's shelter in Iqaluit, says the worst time of the day is the morning wake-up call when 22 men have to share two bathrooms. He says the shelter's always overcrowded, but for many of his clients, it's home.

"Sadly, most of them have come to the realization this is probably all they're ever going to have."

Iqaluit shack fire

The death of a man in this shack fire in December has highlighted the issue of lack of housing for homeless people in Iqaluit. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Cox says the Nunavut government provides support to keep the shelter open, but his clients need a permanent home and he says government rental units are reserved for future employees.

"Well how bad is the housing situation when we have hotel rooms being rented at various places in town, just in case somebody from the government shows up," Cox says.

Cox says compared to a government employee with a stable income, a person overcoming addiction or mental health issues is a less-appealing tenant. 

"I see houses empty all over the place, but nobody seems to want us to have them," he says. 

"As a landlord, you would lean to renting out a house to a government, as opposed to an individual who might damage the house or who might not be able to come up with the rent or gets laid off and doesn't pay his rent on time."

Rehabilitation, mental health services needed

Cox says he'd like to see less money spent on consultants from the south and more on priorities like a rehabilitation facility and group homes for people with mental health issues.

"The difficult part is for me to comprehend that someone from the hospital actually calls a men's shelter and assumes that this is going to be the next step from their rehab."

Cox says he's been asking for the city to provide land for a new men's shelter with independent living units.

When a homeless man went missing last year, a man who had been living in a shack on the beach for the last two decades, told CBC News he didn't want to live in the current shelter.

"I don't want to be influenced by anyone," Joe Teemotee said. 

“I keep telling ministers, I keep telling doctors, I keep telling nurses, I keep telling everybody asking me that because I want to be me. I don't want to be influenced by anyone.”