Town Councillors are voicing their concerns after the Inuvik Warming Shelter quietly closed its doors May 13 for the summer months, but NWT Housing Corporation says the closure is just to get staff trained.
Coun. Kurt Wainman brought the issue up during the May 12 Town Council meeting.
“It’s still pretty cold out,” he said. “They do call it a warming shelter. I can’t see how they can close it during May, it still gets to -10C at night here.
“We’re going to have a whole bunch of incidents if we don’t keep this open until at least June 1.”
Inuvik Town Council rents a building to the Warming Shelter for $1 a year. A second building, now used as the sleeping quarters of the shelter, was donated by the GNWT last October after the Warming Shelter Society nearly shut down amid internal conflicts.
Coun. Wainman also asked the town to request an update on the future of the Warming Shelter.
“It’s an important place,” he said. “Whats the plan? (Do) they shut it down forever or just for the summer?”
A spokesperson for the NWT Housing Corporation confirmed the shelter closed on May 13 and stated the closure was consistent with previous years of operation.
Noting the shelter is intended to operate “only during the winter months,” the statement goes on to say NWTHC is planning to use the closure to implement new staff training procedures and provide training to current staff.
“The NWTHC fully supports the Warming Centre and is committed to working together with the Inuvik Community Warming Centre Society in partnership to ensure that this important service continues to operate during the winter months,” reads the statement. “NWTHC sent two staff to visit the centre earlier this spring who then made recommendations to the Board. The staff continue to work with the Board.
“In the meantime, the Inuvik Homeless Shelter remains open, and community wellness workers are working with individuals experiencing homelessness.”
Inuvik’s Homeless Shelter is considered a ‘dry’ shelter, meaning anyone staying there has to arrive and remain sober for the entirety of the night. The Warming Shelter is a ‘wet’ shelter, open to homeless struggling with addiction issues.
The Warming Centre has been on shaky ground for some time. In October 0f 2020, much of the board resigned following a chaotic meeting filled with accusations thrown at the staff, board members and even people who stay at the shelter. An interim working group was set up to re-start the board. Much of the working group went on to become the new board, which was faced with problems ranging from supplies to the fact the society was undergoing an audit at the time.
Since the new board was elected, the society has kept a very low profile and has not spoken to media.
Town of Inuvik senior administrative officer Grant Hood told council the town was due to have a meeting with the Warming Shelter Board and NWTHC in the near future and he would bring up Wainman’s concerns then.