Housing NWT is looking for a non-profit or Indigenous government to take over operation of Inuvik’s two homeless shelters, less than a year after seizing control of them.
An expression of interest was quietly posted to the crown corporation’s web site May 9. Housing NWT was previously known as NWT Housing Corporation but re-branded itself on April 1 of 2022.
“Housing NWT is funder of homeless shelters, not normally an operator,” said Housing NWT spokesman Ben Fraser. “The situation in Inuvik that saw Housing NWT takeover operations of the shelters was unique and having Housing NWT operate the shelters was never considered as a long-term solution.
“Housing NWT is looking forward to receiving applications to run the homeless shelters and continue their valuable work in Inuvik. Housing NWT will still provide funding for homeless shelters, just like before it assumed operational responsibilities.”
Inuvik’s Warming Shelter society officially dissolved on November 20 last year, citing the takeover by Housing NWT as rendering the society obsolete. The society itself had previously attempted to dissolve the year prior after a tumultuous summer amid a public clash between the board and staff, but a new board offered to step up and attempt to run the society.
Emails obtained by the Inuvik Drum through a Freedom of Information request show the new board initially reached out to Housing NWT for assistance, but quickly began to dispute the territorial government’s overreach. The emails also show key paperwork, including the application for a new funding agreement were not filed by the board, in spite of multiple requests from the GNWT.
At the time, an unattributed spokesperson for Housing NWT said the government moved in because of the ongoing issues.
“The Housing NWT will no longer be providing funding to current incarnations of the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre or the Inuvik Homeless Shelter to conduct overnight shelter operations due to ongoing staffing and governance issues,” read the July 2021 response.
After Housing NWT took over the two shelters, the government agency struggled to find staff for the Warming Shelter. Former Minister of Housing for Vulnerable Populations Alfred Moses took over the shelter briefly, but resigned shortly after publishing a lengthy Facebook post accusing Housing NWT of not providing adequate support.
The Warming Shelter’s problems did not end there. With the old building on Berger St. having become unsuitable for habitation, an old Public Works building on Veteran’s Way was donated as a new shelter. However, a fire caused by an electrical issue with the old building prompted an evacuation on Nov. 26. The next day, the entire building went up in flames. Neither fire was deemed suspicious in origin.
A new building was loaned by NT Health and Social Services Authority, however the building was only intended to be used over the winter. No update has been given from Housing NWT about the future of the current building.
Housing NWT communications manager Cara Bryant previously told Inuvik Drum the shelters historically have cost the GNWT $576,000 to run per year, however since taking over Oct. 1 of 2021 the two shelters had cost $850,000 as of Jan. 1.
Inuvik Drum has reached out to Housing NWT for further comment on the future of the current Warming Shelter building.