Cambridge Bay women’s crisis shelter closed for summer due to funding shortfall

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Already lacking a women’s homeless shelter, Cambridge Bay is now without a women’s crisis shelter, which has effectively been shut down for the summer due to a shortfall of funds.

Kitikmeot women raised concerns about homelessness and the lack of shelters during the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s annual general meeting in 2017. Less than two years later, Cambridge Bay has shut down its women’s crisis shelter for the summer as a cost-savings measure. The women’s delegation in 2017, from left, Kugluktuk CLO Helen K. Tologanak; Elvera Elatiak of Kugluktuk; Celine Ningark of Kugaaruk; Bessie Uquqtuq of Taloyoak; Marlene Siksik of Cambridge Bay; Simona Akkikungnaq of Gjoa Haven; KIA programs coordinator Presley Taylor; and KIA director of social and cultural development Sarah Jancke. Navalik Tologanak/NNSL file photo

The amount of money designated for the shelter through the Department of Family Services has remained static for years, yet costs to operate the facility have been rising, according to Marla Limousin, the community’s senior administrative officer.

The decision was made to save expenses during summer months because many people go out on the land and demand for services is generally lower, said Limousin.

If there is a surprising surge in demand, the three-bedroom house that serves as a shelter could be reopened or if there’s only a small number of women seeking sanctuary they could be sent to a shelter in Kugluktuk, Limousin suggested.

Don LeBlanc, Kugluktuk’s SAO, wouldn’t disclose the number of beds available for women in crisis in Kugluktuk, but he said: “We have somewhat of a capacity, but not that much.”

Cambridge Bay has a men’s homeless shelter that was expanded to 16 beds from eight last year. It is at full capacity.

“Women will find their way with other women and family. They’ll fit in easier than a man fits in,” said Limousin. “There are homeless women who are couch-surfing but it’s not as obvious an issue as it is with the men.”

She added that a women’s homeless shelter is “something we’re working on,” but it’s probably at least two years away from coming to fruition.

The hamlet will continue to offer supportive programming during the summer for those suffering from abuse, Limousin noted.

The one full-time shelter staff person will be reassigned to other duties, she added. There are also eight trained casual employees who work shifts when the shelter is operating.

One client was forced to leave when the crisis shelter closed earlier this month. She had been there for approximately 12 weeks. Normally clients are provided with a crisis-management plan and prepared to leave after 30 days, said Limousin.

The Department of Family Services has not respond to questions about the situation. Nor did the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council. Nor did Cambridge Bay MLA Jeannie Ehaloak.