Gov't management of Inuvik's warming centre and homeless shelter under criticism

The territory's management of Inuvik's warming centre, and its homeless shelter, is under criticism.

Former MLA Alfred Moses resigned from his position as manager for the warming centre after only two weeks

The Inuvik emergency warming centre in August 2020. The warming centre's last manager quit after only two weeks on the job citing frustration with the territorial government. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

COVID-19 temporarily shut down both the Inuvik warming centre and the Inuvik homeless shelter last week. The homeless shelter has since reopened, but according to the chair of the shelter's advisory board, and to the former manager of the warming centre, the pandemic isn't the only issue affecting operations.

They say it's been difficult to operate either location because of management by the NWT Housing Corporation out of Yellowknife.

Former MLA and newly elected Inuvik town councillor, Alfred Moses, confirmed to CBC News that he resigned from his position as manager of the warming centre over the weekend. He had only been in the position for a couple of weeks.

Although he declined an interview, he told CBC News to refer to his Facebook page for comment.

"Today I put my resignation into the Warming [Centre]. It would be nice to see support coming out of Yellowknife and our Regional Director. None," wrote Moses in his post.

Former MLA Alfred Moses publicly resigned from his post as manager of the Inuvik warming centre after only two weeks. (Steve Silva/CBC)

"I'll volunteer and help those in need but [it] has been frustrating. Let's take care of our people that we have grown up with."

According to his post, Moses's frustration was also fuelled by not being allowed to distribute a donation of Canada Goose jackets to centre clients. He did not say specifically who ordered him not to distribute the jackets. Instead he wrote, "I don't know what is up with this Govt."

In an email, CBC News requested comment from the NWT Housing Corporation on Moses's claim about the jackets, but none was provided by publication time.

Long time issues at warming centre

The Inuvik warming centre has been dealing with issues for more than a year.

In October 2020, most of the warming centre board quit during a contentious meeting and was replaced with a temporary working group in order for the centre to remain open. 

A month later, Housing Minister Paulie Chinna committed to sending NWT Housing Corporation staff to the centre to offer assistance to the remainder of the board and employees, after Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly.

However, the centre remained independent of the housing corporation until recently. 

In September, a NWT Housing Corporation representative told CBC News that it was now temporarily running the warming centre, and working with other organizations in town including the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Gwich'in Tribal Council, the Town of Inuvik and the N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority. 

Homeless shelter comes under housing corp management

At the time, CBC News was also told that the housing corporation wasn't running the homeless shelter, a separate operation from the warming centre, but that it was giving additional support to it.

However, according to Peggy Day, the chair of the Inuvik Shelter Advisory Board — which she says no longer has any authority over the shelter — the housing corporation had taken over responsibilities at the homeless shelter by October, and it has not gone smoothly.

In lieu of an interview, Day provided CBC News with a letter she sent to Inuvik MLA and N.W.T. Deputy Premiere Diane Archie about the takeover, which Day states happened on Oct. 1.

It "was chaotic and poorly planned," Day stated in her letter. She also questioned how both the shelter and the warming centre could be managed from Yellowknife.

She writes that the advisory board met with staff from the housing corporation, both in Yellowknife and Inuvik, in July regarding a possible takeover.

The letter states that Day understood that housing corporation staff planned to take over operations of both the Inuvik Homeless Shelter and Warming Centre, but that Day and the board were under the impression the current manager would remain as permanent manager.

Lucy Kuptana, left, and Peggy Day, are pictured in this 2018 file photo. Day, who has been recognized for her work with Inuvik's homeless shelter, is critical of how the territorial government is now managing it. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

"After a long discussion and many questions, the Inuvik Homeless Shelter Advisory Board was given assurances that NWTHC [NWT Housing Corporation] would work with the IHS [Inuvik Homeless Shelter] staff to transition operations of both shelters and the shelter manager, Christina Kasook, would remain employed," wrote Day.

Kasook declined to be interviewed for this story.

Day wrote that Kasook had been manager of the shelter since 2015, and the board was assured that wouldn't change, and that she would be offered full time employment, but neither happened.

"A major concern came to light when Christina [Kasook] was offered a casual supervisor role rather than a full time, permanent manager at the shelter," wrote Day.

According to the letter, the "manager in Yellowknife could not offer another individual the managerial position in Inuvik."

Day wrote that they were told that the COVID-19 situation in Yellowknife caused much of the chaos and uncertainty surrounding the management of the shelter. But Day asked, "could at least one employee be designated to manage this transition?"

The CBC does not know if Archie received the letter, or if she shared it with the NWT Housing Corporation.

The CBC has reached out to the housing corporation for comment on the situation, and for comment on the details of Day's letter, but did not hear back by deadline.