Inuvik firefighters rescue emergency warming centre with $38K donation

Use liquor profits to fund Inuvik's warming centre, says advocate

Joey Amos has been running the John Wayne Kiktorak Centre, also known to residents as the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre, since November 2015.

So far, he's never had to close the door on those who have no other place to live, but he came close this year.

"We were originally scheduled to close our doors on March 17 due to lack of funding," said Amos.

Jonathon Michel, vice-president of the Inuvik Firefighters Association, says they have been fundraising for years with the intent of making a community contribution and hadn't yet made a substantial donation when they heard about the situation.

He said it was a unanimous decision to donate to the emergency warming centre.

"We thought we could shift that close date a little bit, even just by a month or something like that," said Michel.

Michel said the firefighters wanted to make an investment that provides "an essential service in our community in the absence of long-term government funding and support."

'I was astonished'

Although Amos knew that a donation was coming, he wasn't expecting $38,000.

"I was astonished," he said. "We never dreamed that it would be this amount but it will certainly be put to good use."

The donation, along with some additional funding from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, will allow him to keep the doors open until May.

"Until winter is all over done with, we are kind of set right now," he said.

"And it will give us some time to really look at our budget and our proposals, and how we can get as much funding as we can for this 2017/2018 year."

15 to 18 people a night

The warming centre provides shelter to those who don't have a home.

"What we are doing is providing a safe place for our people... that are struggling with addictions and don't have a place to go," said Amos.

About 15 to 18 people stay at the shelter overnight.

Amos says funding — for groceries and supplies — is not keeping up with the demand.

"We got to a point where staff were even buying necessities, so they could have something different for a meal."

Amos said the board for the shelter will meet to figure out the next season but says whatever funding gets approved by the government will dictate when they reopen.

New name, new sign

The donation will also allow the John Wayne Kiktorak Centre to get new signage. Last year, the centre was named after a former firefighter who died in 2015.

"We are really grateful to have that sign," Amos said. "That sign will follow us forever."

Amos said he also hopes to expand the centre, possibly to the building that currently houses the Next to New store, so there will be more space to serve people.

This also won't be the end of the partnership with the firefighters.

"The firefighters would just like to express our appreciation for the work that Joey does here," said Michel.

"And would like to possibly get more help from the public, other government agencies or from whoever to make this centre a priority."