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New 60-bed shelter, 5 affordable housing units opening in Iqaluit

Uquutaq Transitional Housing is set to open this week. It's operated by the non-profit Uquutaq Society, which provides shelter and programming to men who are homeless in Nunavut.

Uquutaq Transitional Housing is Nunavut's first non-profit affordable housing project

Laurel McCorriston, executive director of Uquutaq Society, expects the new shelter will 'dramatically' increase the men’s quality of life. (Travis Burke/CBC)

A new 60-bed shelter for men and five affordable rental units are set to open this week in Iqaluit.

Uquutaq Transitional Housing is Nunavut's first non-profit affordable housing project and transitional housing program for people who are homeless, according to a release on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website.

The shelter was built with just over $8 million from the federal government, says the release. It's operated by the non-profit Uquutaq Society, which provides shelter and programming to men who are homeless in Nunavut.

"We're very happy and relieved. It's been a long haul," said Laurel McCorriston, Uquutaq Society's executive director.

The Uquutaq Transitional Housing project saw two existing, adjacent buildings (Building 1077 and 1079) converted into a shelter, and an 11-unit rental building with offices and programming space, respectively.

The CMHC says five of the 11 rentals will be offered at affordable rates.

Building 1077 has a 30-bed shelter on its main floor. Men there are offered services to help them transition to the building's second floor, which is a 30-bed "transitional home" for men who need fewer supports, says the CMHC. 

Building 1079 during construction. The 11-unit rental building has offices and programming space, says the CMHC. Five of the 11 rentals will be offered at affordable rates. (Submitted by Laurel McCorriston)

Previous shelter saw men sleeping on couches, floors 

Before this, said McCorriston, Uquutaq Society was leasing a building that had 32 beds, but was taking in up to 60 people. 

"We capped it at 60 just for some sort of minimal safety reasons," she said. "We had people sleeping on the floors, on the couches, on chairs, under tables in the kitchen." 

The previous shelter had two bathrooms and one shower, she said. The new one has four showers on each floor.

There will be people who haven't had a bed to sleep for, I don't know, many years who are actually going to have a bed.- Laurel McCorriston, Uquutaq Society executive director

McCorriston expects the new shelter will "dramatically" increase the men's quality of life.

"There will be people who haven't had a bed to sleep for, I don't know, many years who are actually going to have a bed and a locker to put their things in with a lock on it," she said. 

McCorriston said the new space will lift the spirits of staff, as well.  

'We just have to make it break even'

As non-profit housing, the affordable housing units won't have marked up rent, said McCorriston. 

"Whatever the expenses are to run the property is what is distributed in the rent," she said.

"We're not trying to make a profit. We're a non-profit organization. We're running this affordable housing program. We just have to make it break even."

The government of Nunavut, the City of Iqaluit and the Nunavut Housing Corporation are also partners in the shelter and transitional housing development.

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