Inuvik's warming centre to temporarily move to Aurora College student residence

The Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre, formerly known as the John Wayne Kiktorak Warming Centre, has a new temporary location.

The centre's move will help its residents follow physical distancing guidelines

The Aurora College residence in Inuvik, N.W.T., will be the new temporary location for the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre, formerly known as the John Wayne Kiktorak Warming Centre, has a new temporary location.

It's moving from its current location on Berger Street to the Aurora College student residence, located next to the campus. The campus is a few roads away from downtown Inuvik.

"Right now, that building is not fit for that type of separation," said Paul Voudrach, chair of the warming centre, referencing the N.W.T. top doctor's physical distancing guidelines. "So we started in mid-March to search out a new location for a building."

At the current warming centre, residents stay in the building overnight and then leave during the day before coming back at dinner time.

Voudrach says shelter residents have been patient during the pandemic. (Submitted by Paul Voudrach)

With the new building, Voudrach said residents "will hopefully be staying around and inside the building throughout the day."

Voudrach added that although they separate men, women and those who are intoxicated in the current warming centre, they aren't able to maintain the required two metres apart rule set by the Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola.

"When they are separate in that kind of condition, the people have mats to lay on and these mats are only two feet apart," said Voudrach.

Residents supplied half glass 4 times/day

Users of the emergency warming shelter can be intoxicated, whereas that's against the rules at the Inuvik Homeless Shelter.

Voudrach said that residents will be supplied about half a glass of alcohol four times a day.

"The alcohol won't be on site. It will be brought to the homeless shelter morning, lunch hour, dinner hour and 10 [p.m.]," said Vourdrach. "Why we involved alcohol plus cigarettes is so the residents won't be out, going to town looking for alcohol or cigarettes."

Voudrach said that will also make it easier for residents to follow physical distancing rules.

David Maguire, a spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, confirmed the move and the availability of alcohol in a statement.

He wrote residents will now have the space needed to properly physically distance, particularly when they are sleeping. Food, television and shower facilities will also be provided.

"We can ensure these individuals have a safe place to be," wrote Maguire.

Maguire wrote that this temporary centre will operate similarly to a program put on by the NWT Disabilities Council in Yellowknife, that allows the vulnerable population to have a safe place to stay while maintaining access to substances. 

He wrote that they've seen positive results in terms of a reduction in alcohol, drug consumption and incidents of violence or conflict.

Voudrach said the shelter averaged about 19 people this past winter, and has up to about 21 residents that utilize the shelter. The new building has 30 rooms, which will allow residents to be separated.

The move to the new location should start this week. Voudrach said he's thankful for the different territorial government agencies for their help, and the patience from users of the warming shelter.

"I have to give a great big hand to the residents who are staying at the present building. So far they have been patient … No one has really been getting out of hand when it comes to fear that comes with pandemic. They've been working really well with staff and residents in the building."