Staff from the Northwest Territories House Corporation are planning to pay a visit to the Inuvik Warming Centre to offer support and assistance, though a date has yet to be announced for when that trip will happen.
Minister Responsible for Homelessness Paulie Chinna told the GNWT Legislature she had committed to sending support staff to work with the employees at the centre after Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler brought up the issue during her Oct. 28 Member’s Statement.
Noting that mental health and addictions are frequent obstacles for people who are homeless in getting their lives back on track, Semmler noted the Inuvik Warming Shelter needed support from the GNWT if it was to implement the territory’s Homelessness Strategy.
“They need support. They need assistance to develop a program plan with trained staff, board training, programming management,” said Semmler. “They need support to secure a permanent location to offer this programming. Without this program in our community, we know people are in danger of dying. People experiencing homelessness have died in my community. This was the reason the shelter was developed.
“I would also like to thank all of those in my community who have been volunteering and putting their time in and their heart into the Inuvik Warming Centre over the past year, since its creation.”
Noting that the GNWT funds both the Warming Centre and the Inuvik Homeless Shelter with a fund of $600,000 a year, Chinna said she was aware of the situation at the Warming Centre and would be sending Housing Corporation staff to assist the employees over the winter.
Chinna noted the overall Homelessness Strategy was still in draft form, but added all MLAs would have access to the strategy when it was finished.
On Oct. 10, the Inuvik Warming Centre board of directors resigned following a heated public meeting where the society nearly dissolved. A transition board was established to elect a new board of directors, but a schedule Nov. 5 meeting did not have enough people present to have a vote.
“It’s wintertime,” said Semmler. “There’s lot of snow. It’s cold. I’m glad that the Minister is going to send her staff in and start working with my community as we can’t afford to have the place shut down.
“Will the Minister also get started on building these partnerships to work with the department of health to identify mental health, addiction supports, and training for clients and staff within this facility?”
Promising to follow up with Semmler, Chinna added the GNWT had funding available for Non-Government Organizations to train staff and noted the territory’s homelessness strategy involved other departments, including the Ministry of Municipal and Community Affairs as well as the Ministry of Health. She did not elaborate when the support staff were planning to arrive or when the strategy would be complete and ready for public viewing.