By the end of Friday, the operator and location of Fort Simpson's warming shelter should be clearer as the village begins to see sub-zero temperatures.
On October 22, the village issued a call for businesses or groups to come forward if they have space available and an interest in hosting a shelter. The deadline for those interested is Friday at 3 p.m.
The N.W.T. Housing Corporation has already agreed to provide $200,000 toward the shelter's operating costs until the end of March 2022.
Kevin Corrigan, the village’s senior administrator, said as of Wednesday evening there had been no applications received. If no bids come in, the shelter will continue to operate in its former location, Corrigan said.
This year's call for expressions of interest was issued after a resident asked for more transparency in the shelter’s procurement process.
Fort Simpson’s mayor, Sean Whelly, said the village has since released some financial records related to the shelter's operation last year in a bid to meet that request.
Whelly said the process last year was different – involving no such call for expressions of interest – because governments and residents had been working quickly to get vulnerable people out of the cold.
Opening a shelter fell to the village when no other group had the capacity. Fort Simpson's former Unity Store was chosen as a viable option for the speedy establishment of a shelter.
Muaz Hassan, a village councillor who owns the former Unity Store building, is currently operating this year's shelter. Hassan says he is covering its costs until the call for expressions of interest is complete, helped by donations and the support of volunteers.
Whelly said: "Because we’re a smaller community, we know the people and we can’t turn around and say these are not people we want to help.
“We know that people are getting hurt – that’s the difference between a bigger city and a smaller place. In one way or another, we’re going to do what we can to help people.”
Whelly added that while volunteers helping to run the shelter are appreciated, “it can’t run that way forever.” Dedicated, paid staff will come when an agreement is finalized.
The mayor hopes the community can one day supply permanent housing for people who use the shelter.
“It’ll be good to bring their life skills up, to perhaps give them the guidance and have them look forward to having a small home, to be a renter in a job with some training, life skills, and health and wellness support,” he said.
Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio