Man kicked out of Inuvik shelters has a question: Where should I go?

·5 min read
Richard Bryce Tardiff Jr. has been temporarily banned from Inuvik's shelters.   (Submitted by Richard Bryce Tardiff - image credit)
Richard Bryce Tardiff Jr. has been temporarily banned from Inuvik's shelters. (Submitted by Richard Bryce Tardiff - image credit)

Richard Bryce Tardiff Jr. has worn out his welcome at shelters in Inuvik, N.W.T. and has found himself with no place to stay in the middle of winter.

He posted about his predicament on Facebook last week, and asked if it was ethical to be banned from the only shelters available in the winter.

"I'm homeless, what else am I going to do? Do they expect me to freeze outside? I could figure out like a few days or a week but 30 days? I have nowhere to go," he told CBC News.

Tardiff said he received a letter the first week of January from the homelessness and community planning manager for the NWT Housing Corporation (NWTHC), telling him he's banned from entering and using the two shelters in Inuvik for 30 days, and that if he tried to go inside, RCMP would be called.

Tardiff said he no longer has the letter.

The homeless shelter on Kingmingya Road is a dry shelter for those who are not using drugs or alcohol. The Inuvik Emergency Warming Shelter, now located on Reliance Street, is a wet shelter that's open to those who are using substances. Tardiff said he was a client of both locations.

"I only got one verbal warning," he said. "There are supposed to be three strikes to be kicked out of the shelters … I was staying sober and everything," he said, adding that when intoxicated he would go to the wet shelter.

Submitted by Richard Bryce Tardiff
Submitted by Richard Bryce Tardiff

In an email to CBC News, the communications advisor for the shelters in Inuvik acknowledged the three warning system — but said there are times when "warnings are not appropriate."

"Occasionally there may be a situation where there is an immediate threat and the need to remove the risk and danger to staff and/or other clients means actions must be taken quickly."

She said there can be temporary bans from the shelters of up to 30 days. They are made in writing, and the shelter works with NWT Health and Social Services Authority and the RCMP to support individuals who may not have access to the shelters.

'Where do I belong?'

Tardiff doesn't shy away from the role he's played in the situation. He said he's been in confrontations with some of the other clients, and police had been called multiple times. At the more independent living shelter, he said he signed a contract to be sober and to work his construction job in town.

"Clients and staff were telling me I don't belong here, I don't know what they mean by that," Tardiff said. "It makes me think, where do I belong?"

Tardiff, who said he's fully vaccinated, has since been warming up in stores and trying to find places to sleep, like in boiler rooms or at the RCMP detachment.

"I get drunk to stay at the police station and I don't like doing that when I have to go to work the next day," Tardiff said.

Citing concerns around privacy, Inuvik RCMP could not comment on the specifics of Tardiff's situation.

Tardiff said he's been homeless for more than 10 years, since his house burned down. His parents died when he was young. In 2019, he was attacked with a knife in Yellowknife.

He wants shelters to reassess their protocols, make sure they give clear warnings, and not ban clients for such a long period of time in the winter.

"They need more training," he said. "I believe they need more meetings with each other and everyone's on the same page."

Find a way, former shelter worker says

Beatrice Stewart, who used to work at both shelters in Inuvik, said Tardiff shouldn't have been expelled.

"There should be other alternatives for people that have addictions," Stewart said over Facebook Messenger, who now lives in Whitehorse, Yukon. She said her family used to babysit Tardiff.

"They're saying that he got kicked out because he was being abusive to other people at the shelter but they should know how to handle that.

"There are different steps that you could take. You could separate them and make sure that they're safe instead of kicking them out."

Under new management

The housing corporation started managing both shelters early last fall after many of the previous board members quit during a contentious meeting, and were replaced with a temporary working group.

Since then, NWTHC president and CEO Eleanor Young said they have managed to recruit a number of staff and are currently supporting 40 clients between both facilities.

When asked about recent concerns of mismanagement during the transition, Young said things were "stable".

"I've not had any complaints in the last month about anything like that in terms of staff capacity or operation," she said. "Both shelters are operating 24 hours a day at the moment."

Submitted by Kristian Binder
Submitted by Kristian Binder

In November, the original Inuvik Emergency Warming Shelter burned down. No one was hurt.

"We've had an extremely cold [winter] and had we not been able to get that facility in early December, this situation would have been much more dire and difficult because we were limited on what was available to us for facilities."

Young said the housing corporation's management plans are temporary. She said for the next six months to a year they will work on upgrading policies and operations under an advisory committee with representatives from the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and the Town of Inuvik.

Young said organizations in Inuvik are interested in looking at other solutions, like a combined shelter or a larger shelter. She added that services or programs around addictions and rehabilitation were outside the housing corporation's mandate.

Elder calls for northern treatment centre

Wilma Dosedel, an Inuvialuit elder in Inuvik, is calling for intensive addiction and healing programs for the Beaufort Delta region. She said she's had family members and friends die from addiction.

"What we really need here in town is like programs for addictions, whether it be drugs or alcohol, gambling or gaming," she said.

Dosedel said counselors at the hospital are only temporary, and sending people down South or hosting one- or two-day events hasn't helped.

"It's good to go out on the land and everything. But you know, like, we need something really intense here in Inuvik for our surrounding communities."

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