INUVIK, N.W.T. –
Several people wander into Hope House at lunchtime for a warm bowl of caribou stew, fresh baked bread and reprieve from the early July heat in Inuvik, N.W.T.
The drop-in centre, which serves underhoused and disadvantaged people in the western Arctic community, offers a washroom, food, mental health supports and a space to relax. People can also use a laptop to search for employment and get basic home supplies.
Sharon Rogers, the senior front-line community worker at Hope House, said it bridges the gap between the two shelters operating in Inuvik. The town has a homeless shelter, which does not allow people who are intoxicated to stay, and a warming shelter, which is open to those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“This was kind of like the in-between if they need somewhere to go,” Rogers said, noting the region experiences harsh winters.
“It’s very well needed.”
The centre, which opened in October, was developed by Peggy Day, Susan Peffer, Veronica Kasook and William Hurst. The team was awarded $495,000 for the project by the Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2022.
Since November, Rogers said Hope House has served close to 1,600 people. She noted many of those employed by the centre have experienced homelessness themselves.
“It’s my heart,” she said of the centre. “I would love to be in this role forever. I enjoy serving people and I love seeing their expressions.”
Rogers’ sister is among those visiting Hope House on this day. She’s emotional as she explains her appreciation for the drop-in centre and said it offers support for people who want to stop drinking.
Others say they are happy to have somewhere to go and get a meal.
Rogers said Hope House is also a place where women can bead, get art supplies and play nutritional bingo, where the prizes are boxes of food items.
The centre also offers cultural programming, such as traditional games and a fish hook-making workshop, she said. It now has two newly constructed tent frames in the backyard where she said people can come to carve and summer programs can be held.
In February, the centre hosted a parka sewing course where several men experiencing homelessness cut out the materials and sewed their own winter coats.
“They had never touched a sewing machine,” Rogers said. “Now they know how to switch the bobbin if it runs out of thread. They know a little bit more about sewing, which they never did before.”
A traditional harpoon-making workshop set to take place this month has been postponed to a later date because the town was under a heat warning. Rogers said the hot weather has made working outside difficult.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.