Iqaluit shelter struggling to meet demand as working homeless seek beds

Kent Driscoll
APTN National News

The men’s shelter in Iqaluit is struggling to keep up with demand and is overflowing with clients who cannot find shelter elsewhere.

Just this past Sunday there were 33 men were crammed into a space built for just 19 as some men found a spot on the floor to sleep.

“It puts a burden on the whole system of the shelter,” said director, Douglas Cox. “As far as showers and laundry, we obviously have to wash more sheets, we spend more money on food, more coffee, more tea. Everything is twice as much.”

The shelter averages around 30 people per night, but they’ve seen as high as 39, said Cox. The shelter is simply too small to accommodate the need. But what is frustrating for Cox is he wants a new building, and few people want a shelter in their backyard.

The shelter is simply too small to accommodate the need – but what is frustrating for Cox is he wants a new building, and few people want a shelter in their backyard.

“We’re looking for a new location, all the time. We drive by buildings that are sitting empty, with the lights on and the power on, and the heat. And I have to ask myself, ‘why is this building sitting empty here for two years?”

Simon Gibbons knows how crowded the shelter is. After moving to Iqaluit from the Nunavut community of Arviat three years ago, he found a job four months later. But even while working, he still needs the men’s shelter to get by.

“It’s very hard though, I’ve been looking for apartments since I got here. But still waiting,” he said.

Gibbons believes that Iqaluit needs to grow to meet current demands.

“More places, more housing and more workers.”

And while he appreciates a warm place to sleep when he’s done work, more than 30 men sleeping in two rooms is no one’s idea of the ideal home. But he makes due.

“To live in there, it’s kind of different for me, not used to different people. But we get along every day.”

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Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.

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