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Iqaluit's Uquutaq men's shelter gets $6.7M to expand, offer programming

The chair of Iqaluit's Uquutaq Society is hoping a new infusion of cash could "fundamentally change" how homelessness is dealt with in Nunavut.

Society bought 2 buildings, expects to move into them in March 2020

One of the two new buildings that the Uquutaq men's shelter plants to move into in March. (Travis Burke)

The chair of Iqaluit's Uquutaq Society is hoping a new infusion of cash could "fundamentally change" how homelessness is dealt with in Nunavut.

Stephanie Clark says the men's shelter her society runs is getting a $6.5-million mortgage to expand and $200,000 to create programming. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided the money.

The current men's shelter is not adequate, according to Clark.

"It's a small home that's been turned into an institution," she said.

"There's 40 to 50 men sometimes a night ... and it's hard to find dignity and independence when you're lined up 15, 20 deep to use the washroom in the morning."

This is the current men's shelter in Iqaluit. (Travis Burke)

The society is using the mortgage to buy two buildings, which will be able to accommodate around 60 people a night.

While the current space is only used as an emergency shelter, the new space will offer that, as well as affordable rental units and programming for those who are attempting to transition out of homelessness. 

Clark says shelter staff and society members are consulting with the men who currently use the shelter, to find out what their needs are. 

"[The programming] will be tailored to what they are wanting and what they're looking for," she said.

Clark said the extra space and programming is designed to get people housed — and keep them housed.

"That reduces the burden on the episodic homelessness, and so it's interconnected and cyclical," she said, adding Nunavut's chronic housing shortage could be a looming hitch in the plan.

"How do [people] transition out of the program when they're ready to transition, when they have nowhere to go?" 

The Uquutaq Society plays a role in this conversation, Clark says, but the whole community needs to work together to come up with a solution.

The society has already signed a purchase agreement for the two buildings and expects to move in and implement new programming in March 2020. 

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