NEWS: Around the Arctic April 13, 2011 - 4:34 am

Montreal’s Chez Doris day shelter hires Inuit caseworker

"We hired Annie to help us understand what these women are going through”

SARAH ROGERS

Of the hundreds of Inuit women who travel south to make a new life, an unlucky few get no further than Montreal’s streets.

There, they face disease, violence and sometimes death, far away from home and their loved ones.

But there’s hope and help.

Inuit women living on Montreal’s streets can now seek out a kind and familiar friend to give them a hand.

Last month, the Chez Doris day shelter hired Annie Pisuktie for a three-year contract as a street caseworker, thanks to money from Makivik Corp..

Pisuktie, who moved south from Iqaluit many years ago, formerly worked as an outreach worker with the Montreal Native Friendship Centre.

As a street caseworker for Chez Doris, Pisuktie walks the streets each day, checking in with the 40 or so women who frequent the downtown neighbourhood.

Located at 1430 Chomedey St., Chez Doris lies close to the old Forum, the Montreal Children’s hospital and Cabot Square Park, a popular hang-out for indigent people.

It’s also near a strip whose nightlife draws women with traumatic pasts away from the North, and then holds them, captive, in the city.

Pisuktie tries to help these women meet their basic everyday needs, said Josée Roy, an executive assistant at Chez Doris.

Pisuktie can link these women up to Chez Doris and other community services, or help them make doctor’s appointments or sign rental leases.

But Inuit women have different needs than Chez Doris’ other clients, said Roy, citing their culture, language and vulnerability to addiction and violence as some examples.

“That’s why we hired Annie to help us understand what these women are going through,” Roy said.

Even before Pisuktie’s arrival, Chez Doris offered support to Inuit women, who make up about 15 per cent of its overall clientele.

During the day, women go to Chez Doris for warmth, companionship and food. There, they can eat a filling breakfast and a hot lunch, play bingo, learn how to use computers, or do some arts and crafts. They can work out, watch television, receive new clothes, or even take a bath.

Legal advice, counselling and medical treatment are also available.

Chez Doris also provides information to curb reduce sexually transmitted infections and violence in the relationships.

And Chez Doris encourages Inuit women to keep in contact with their home communities.

Inuit women can also make emergency telephone calls back home to the North from the day shelter.

With Pisuktie on staff, Chez Doris plans to offer Inuit more activities, such as social events and country food dinners.

Chez Doris and Makivik Corp. plan to hold a press conference April 27 in Montreal to officially launch this new community service.

If you’re in Montreal and require help, or know someone who does, contact the shelter at 514-937-2341.