For years, there has been talk in Hay River about the need for a shelter for homeless people.

And finally that talk turned into action, resulting in the Sept. 1 opening of the Moving Forward Emergency Shelter for Men and Women, followed on Nov. 13 by the grand opening of the much-needed facility.

Those milestones in Hay River should be, and have been, recognized for what they are – truly important steps on the road to making the community a better place for all its residents.

Any society is rightly judged by how it helps people in need.

There’s really not much to analyse about the opening of the Moving Forward Emergency Shelter for Men and Women, except to recognize the people that have been instrumental in seeing it become a reality.

First on that list is the Hay River Committee for Persons with Disabilities, which has opened and is operating the shelter.

The committee tried several times to start a homeless shelter over the past decade because many of its clients have struggles finding housing, and that dedication and perseverance is commendable.

And the NWT Housing Corporation, part of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, has to be recognized for providing the funding that allowed the shelter to open.

Of course, concern over Covid-19 had prompted the corporation to temporarily secure 18 rooms at North Country Inn for homeless people in Hay River. So, in a way, the pandemic helped spur on the creation of a homeless shelter.

And late last year, a group of concerned citizens set up a temporary shelter in a trailer in Old Town. They also have to be recognized for that effort.

Now that the homeless shelter has been established, continuing funding is vital.

Currently, the housing corporation is providing money until the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2021.

However, Tom Williams, president and CEO of the NWT Housing Corporation, has said that permanent funding will be found for the facility.

That is good to hear, although not really surprising.

It seems illogical that the Hay River Committee for Persons with Disabilities and the NWT Housing Corporation would go through all the work of setting up a homeless shelter – not to mention having a ribbon-cutting ceremony – only to see the facility close after just seven months.

So the community can be confident that the Moving Forward Emergency Shelter for Men and Women is here to stay.

That is both a comforting thought and a distressing one at the same time.

The distressing part is because it means that homelessness will be a permanent part of the town. Perhaps it won’t be, but it’s better to assume that it will and be ready to help people in need.

One very positive thing about the Moving Forward Emergency Shelter for Men and Women is the ‘Moving Forward’ part of its name.

Its goals include helping homeless people access treatment, find employment, learn life skills and ultimately find permanent accommodations.

That’s a good plan, a worthy cause and something that the GNWT should be happy to fund.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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