North

Inuvik warming centre reopens as temperatures begin to drop

The housing corporation is now running the warming centre on an interim basis in collaboration with other organizations in town. For the time being, the shelter is staying open from midnight to 8 a.m., with prospects of extending those hours.

It closed for the summer in May, with NWT Housing Corporation taking over temporarily

The Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre in August 2020. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

After being closed for the summer, the warming shelter in Inuvik, N.W.T., reopened Monday as temperatures have begun to drop. For the time being, it's staying open from midnight to 8 a.m.

"We will eventually extend our hours at the warming shelter but, for now we needed something set up right away for our most vulnerable people," said Christina Kasook via Facebook Messenger. Kasook is currently running both the warming centre and Inuvik's homeless shelter.

After dealing with various issues for about a year, the wet shelter, which welcomes sober and non-sober people, closed in May. Last October, most of the board quit during a contentious meeting and was replaced with a temporary working group in order for the shelter 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 board and employees, after Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly.

Kasook said the other shelter in Inuvik is currently at capacity, so people needing a place to stay overnight are referred to the warming centre.

The housing corporation is temporarily running the warming centre, 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 authority.

"Because we are doing support for the warming centre, we are offering the same kind of operational support to the homeless shelter," said Eleanor Young, president and CEO of the housing corporation.

Eleanor Young, president and CEO of the NWT Housing Corporation. (Submitted by Eleanor Young)

Young said this could include training for staff. She said the original decision to close the warming centre for the summer was made before the housing corporation took over the shelter temporarily.

"It gave us the opportunity to work with all of the organizations involved to come up with a solution which is a governance model involving all of them, but, with us operating things and getting things stabilized again," said Young.

Young is hopeful that this model will help prevent some of the issues between staff and the board from rising up.

She said currently the manager position for the warming centre is posted, and the board hasn't been finalized yet.

The centre is a crucial part of Inuvik, providing shelter to those in need especially during the cold months. 

Young said that the growth of shelters in smaller communities reflects a larger issue for the territory.

"I think there has been a huge demand by residents for leaders in our community to find something so they don't face the kind of situation that Inuvik did go through last year," Young said.

"You don't want to hear one of your residents out in the cold, you don't want to hear them suffering and you want to make sure there is something there for them."

Young said the goal is to have enough staff and resources in place to open up the warming centre full-time by Oct. 1.

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