Shack fire leaves Iqaluit families living in tents, seeking donations

Two families in Iqaluit are now living in tents after a fire tore through their shack this past weekend.

5 people have been displaced by the fire

A shack on a beach near the centre of the city of Iqaluit was home for five people before it was destroyed in a fire on July 14, 2018. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Two families in Iqaluit are now living in tents after a fire tore through their shack this past weekend.

The Iqaluit fire department was called to the fire along the city's beach Saturday evening.

One family, made up of a couple and their preteen son, received a tent and sleeping bags from the Red Cross as well as donations from local businesses.

The mayor of Iqaluit, Madeleine Redfern, was one of several residents who began collecting donations for the family after the fire.

"I've given them information about where they can go for support," Redfern said. "Iqaluit Housing Authority does provide housing, and families that are homeless, especially those with children, get to the top of the list."

Mayor Madeleine Redfern says the city is working with the men's homeless shelter on housing solutions. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

Five people were sharing the shack on the beach. No one was inside at the time of the fire.

One person living there, who CBC has agreed not to name, said he moved into the shack last October. He spent the previous year living in a tent.

The shack is located on Inuit-owned lands.

There are plans to build more social housing, Redfern said. The federal government promised $240 million for Nunavut as part of a 10-year national housing strategy. 

Iqaluit's Uquutaq Society, which operates the city's men's shelter, is securing funding, including $100,000 from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

That money will go toward a transitional housing project which hopes to move approximately 50 men out of the shelter's current four-bedroom home into a larger shelter and eventually into Uquutaq-run units, as stepping stones to independent living.

The city's wellness committee has also dedicated $150,000 toward shelter renovations.

Redfern says the city of Iqaluit provides land for housing projects, but she called on Inuit organizations to pledge more money to build homes and offer solutions for homelessness.

"The fact is that we all have to work together," Redfern said. "It is not one individual or one level of government that has the sole responsibility."

The city of Iqaluit called the fire on Saturday suspicious, but RCMP could not confirm whether an investigation is ongoing.