Aurora College’s single-student residence is now a temporary Warming Shelter as NWT Housing Corporation has been working behind the scenes to provide options for the town’s homeless citizens.

Coun. Alana Mero revealed the plan during a town council’s April 15 meeting, which was broadcast live on the town’s YouTube channel, after Coun. Clarence Wood read out an email he had received from a resident who asked to remain anonymous.

“If appropriate, please ask what’s happening with the homeless people around town. The loitering and drinking isn’t as bad, but still a problem. Obviously there’s no proper hygiene or social distancing happening on their part. I’m not trying to be judgmental or bad mouth them, it’s just a health and safety issue right now. There’s tonnes of empty liquor bottles by Mountainview Apartments and outside the back of the Professional Building near the Inuvik Drug store delivery entrance.”

Wood went on to inquire who handles the monitoring and enforcement of social distancing.

Coun. Mero explained the NWT Housing Corporation had been working to put together a plan for people staying at both the Inuvik Homeless and Warming Shelters.

She noted that the Homeless Shelter, which is a dry shelter, will continue to operate as normal, as the building has enough space and separate washrooms for people staying there to maintain social distancing.

“If somebody needs isolate because they’re being tested, they’re kept separate from others,” she said. “All seven residents are currently working, mainly in response to this pandemic.”

The Warming Shelter, where residents are allowed to use alcohol, is still in operation. However, because of the spacing issues Mero said the Housing Authority had been at work to find a new location to help keep effective distance between people staying there.

She said the Aurora College single-student residence will be the new location for the Inuvik Warming Shelter, with a special part of the building sealed off for self-isolation. She expected the shelter to have moved in by April 16.

“We’re going to take some very unusual steps there. For one, there will be security,” said Mero. “We’re also going to try a managed alcohol program, which has been done in other jurisdictions. Residents here are not being asked to commit to stay, because that probably won’t work, but instead four times a day, a measured amount of alcohol and particular number of cigarettes will be given to each person.

“The alcohol has to be drank there while staff are there, and the cigarettes people go outside and smoke those. The hope is that people will stay in that area and go back inside.”

Town of Inuvik SAO Grant Hood said that the ProtectNWT hotline was handling all complaints in regards to unsafe social practices. Environment and Natural resources officers are being re-trained to handle the enforcement of medical orders. He noted the town had called the hotline itself to maintain order at the Mackenzie Hotel isolation centre.

“They are just getting started, but they do have people on the ground here,” he said. “ProtectNWT has been very conscious on what’s happening. In areas where we’ve had issues, they’ve stayed in contact and responded very fast.

Eric Bowling

Breaking News Reporter and Digital Editor for NNSL, Eric operates out of Inuvik in the Beaufort Delta. He's four years into his Northern adventure and is eager to learn more about life in the Arctic Circle....

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