Inuvik’s John Wayne Kiktorak Warming Centre is part of the solution to homelessness in Inuvik.
That’s the opinion of Inuvik RCMP Cpl. Brennan Woodcock and acting detachment commander, who was asked the impromptu question by deputy Mayor Steven Baryluk during town council’s Nov. 25 committee of the whole meeting.
“In my opinion it is helping,” he said. “People under the influence have somewhere to go. When I first got here it wasn’t open all the time and the prisoner count did go up when it was closed. The shelter does take in a lot of the people that sometimes end up in our cells if it was closed.”
Cpl. Woodcock was at the meeting to present the monthly RCMP statistics but found himself sitting alongside Inuvik Warming Centre executive director Mary Cockney, who was representing the centre at council in response to a discussion on whether to move it to a new location.
As the centre’s lease on a town-owned building is up in December, council has been floating the idea of moving it after residents raised concerns about its close proximity to East Three School.
Cockney admitted the warming centre’s location was problematic for a number of reasons. However, when asked if moving the centre would change the distribution of homeless people downtown during the day, she said people would just keep doing their routines, most of which is away from the warming centre anyway.
A lot of the people who stay at the centre are people passing through on their way up or down the highway as well. People who come to town and stay are usually referred to the Inuvik Homeless Shelter.
Cockney added the shelter requires residents to sign an agreement saying they will participate in at least three activities each two weeks. Those activities include volunteering at events, attending healing circles, seeing a counsellor, attending A.A. meetings, helping clean up the building and taking life skills and on the land workshops. While the centre allows moderately intoxicated people to sleep in a separate section, it itself is a sober environment and residents are not permitted to use intoxicants while staying there. Highly intoxicated and disruptive people are turned away and anyone appearing dangerous is reported to RCMP.
Above all, she noted, treating homelessness and addiction goes hand-in-hand and as every person’s own story is highly complex, a great deal of patience is needed.
“Behind drug addiction is trauma,” said Cockney. “Some of our residents may have gone through it in their life. Our goal is to first keep them in a safe and caring environment. After we get that addressed, we help them if they ask for help. This is a very slow process. It may take years for some. For some it might never happen.
“We are here to help and guide each and every one that comes through the door to help them learn new skills and to help them better their ways of living each day. We do not know what they are going through in their life.”
Moving the lease to a month-to-month would also hinder the centre, which as of next year will be required by NWT Housing Corporation to submit five-year budgets to get portions of its funding to keep the heat on. The centre also hired a part-time emergency support worker to help deal with situations as they come up and help residents navigate government services.
Coun. Paul MacDonald eventually suggested keeping the status quo and renewing the lease, but keeping a note on the lease that the centre is able to move if a better option were to come up, which would satisfy all involved and ensure the centre can secure funding to keep it in operation.
In the interim, the centre is keeping busy, starting a soup kitchen between 12 to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and looking at having an open house in the near future.