After being forced to close temporarily this summer due to a funding shortage, the John Wayne Kiktorak Centre re-opened its doors Sept. 20 to those in need of a warm place to sleep at night.

Joey Amos is the manager of the John Wayne Kiktorak Centre. The warming centre gave shelter to six people on Sept. 20, the first night it has been open again after a funding shortage forced its doors closed this summer.
Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

“It was pretty appropriate,” said warming centre manager Joey Amos about the opening date. “We woke up to some snow on the ground.”

Six people used the shelter on its first evening of the season, with no one being dropped off by RCMP and only one person showing up slightly intoxicated.

Those who stayed received a hot meal, did laundry and were given a chance to shower, said Amos.

The warming centre operates seven days a week from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.

While there are no beds in the facility, there are mats for people to sleep on. Men and women sleep in separate rooms. Each is provided a locker to store belongings.

Amos anticipated the centre could see an average of 16 people a night this year, although it has in the past seen highs of 26 people on summer nights.

But as the days turn darker and colder, no one will be turned away, he said.

“We’ve got to make room for them,” said Amos. “That’s why we’re here.”

This year, he has hopes of turning the Next to New space beside the warming centre into an area where intoxicated individuals can sober up separately from those who have not been drinking.

He would like to eventually see beds in that space.

“We’re trying to make it a little more relaxing for the folks that are trying to stay sober,” said Amos.

But finding money for new projects is always a challenge.

Although it costs more than $300,000 to keep the warming centre going all year, it receives less than that much funding annually from the GNWT to pay the bills and employees, said Amos.

“That’s why we closed during the summer time this year, in June, and we’re reopening now so that we can ensure that we’re not running into major troubles come March,” he said.

A $38,000 donation from the Inuvik Firefighters Association helped keep the centre’s doors from closing even earlier, in March.

The centre is trying to stretch its budget this year by reducing and altering some staff hours, at least for now.

“Once it gets cold, then we can readjust to what we were doing before, kind of remaining open during the day a bit,” said Amos.

While finding enough funding can be difficult, Amos is grateful for what the centre does receive.

“It’s benefitting the men and women that are in need of a place to sleep,” he said.

The warming centre’s board is planning a grand re-opening of the shelter and celebration of a new sign on Oct. 2, said Amos.

The Inuvik Firefighters Association, RCMP and other dignitaries are being invited, he said, as well as surviving members of Kiktorak’s family.

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