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Funding for Fort Simpson warming shelter will mean hired staff, expanded services, mayor says

The Fort Simpson warming shelter eyes funding that could help achieve its goals and objectives, like hiring staff to run the shelter. So far, it has been operated by volunteers and furnished through donations.

'We're well on track to getting this upgraded,' said Fort Simpson mayor Sean Whelly

Muaz Hassan walks towards the former location of the Unity Store building, which he owns, in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. Last month, the building was turned into a warming shelter, largely with his support and help from community members and the interagency committee tasked with establishing the shelter. (Hannah Paulson/CBC News)

The warming shelter in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., is hoping to reach another milestone in the coming days, with expected new funding for renovations and expanded services. 

Mayor Sean Whelly said the interagency committee that runs the facility is expecting funding from the NWT Housing Corporation. The committee asked for $179,000, to go toward supporting the goals and funding objectives of running the shelter. 

Since opening last month, the shelter has been run by volunteers but the plan is to hire staff to operate it. Funding will also go toward renovations to better accommodate people overnight, with washing machines, a shower, and safety considerations. 

The housing corporation has not yet filled a written contribution agreement, however Whelly expects to receive it sometime this week. 

"I think we're well on track to getting this upgraded and giving us some certainty that we'll be able to run it 'til the end of April," said Whelly.

The village office in Fort Simpson. (Hannah Paulson/CBC)

People in the community quickly began using the shelter after it opened on Dec. 18, Whelly told CBC. Some stay for warmth, while others sleep in the shelter. 

There were a few beds donated for those that use the space to stay overnight and rest. 

As for future goals, Whelly said the statistics they're gathering now about how many people are using the shelter will be useful for potentially expanding current programming. 

Support through daytime services

The expected funding will only support nighttime programming, but Whelly said there may be volunteers who stay during the day.

Daytime services would provide greater support for those who need help or guidance in accessing resources or assistance that may be available to them, said Whelly. For example, people could receive tips while applying for jobs, housing, or government assistance.

Mayor Sean Whelly and Muaz Hassan on the night that the shelter opened its doors for the first time in December. The facility has seen a rise in people using the shelter overnight. (Hannah Paulson/CBC News)

"We'll be definitely looking at expanding that into more of a daytime thing. Not so much this year, I don't think… but we'll be using whatever data and statistics we gather and comments from people in that facility to guide how we're going to operate in the future," Whelly said.

The warming shelter initially started as an emergency solution to the immediate concerns related to cold weather along with health and safety issues due to the pandemic, but Whelly says it's just the first step.

"Hopefully it'll lead to a more robust solution where people's lives really can change," he said. 

"We have to carry on. You know, when summer comes, the immediate threat of freezing goes away. But still, people need assistance. So we'll have to see how that can be delivered." 

About the Author

Hannah Paulson

Reporter/editor

Hannah Paulson is a reporter from the Northwest Territories. She grew up in Gameti, Yellowknife, and Liidlii Kue.

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