- APTN NewsAPTN News

Perspectives on Housing: A Roof Overhead

APTN National News 

 

IQALUIT HOUSING

We’re uncovering the issues surrounding the lack of homes, poor workmanship, mold and overcrowding and why housing is a factor in the growing rates of Hepatitis C and depression among our Peoples. During the week of March 27 to 31, APTN National News will look into the housing situation from coast to coast to coast. What is going right? What are the needs? 


MONDAY


The housing situation in Nunavut is dire. Nunavummiut live in some of the most crowded conditions in the world. Often, 12 people are living together in a 3 bedroom home. 3,000 new units are needed to help the 30,000 people who live there have their own home. In Budget 2017, the federal Liberals committed $240 million over ten years to help. But is this enough?


Kent Driscoll, Iqaluit, Nunavut


When you ask Iqaluit’s Joamie Lyta to explain just how many people live in her small apartment, she needs to stop and count on her fingers.

“Let me count, there’s me, him, my son, my granddaughter, my grandson, my other granddaughter, my nephew, my other son. There’s nine of us,” explained the social housing resident in Iqaluit.Nine in the day time. At night she often adds two more to her over crowded home.

“My other two brothers, they come to, to sleep at my house, they got no place to stay,” she said. “So sometimes there’s 11 or 12 in my house.”

It sounds extreme, but for Nunavut, this isn’t the exception, it is the rule.

Fifty per cent of all homes in Nunavut are social housing – homes with subsidized rent for people who can’t afford it. Of those social units, 63 per cent are in need of major repairs.

The wait list to get into those beat up homes is long. One in five of all Nunavut residents are on a waiting list for social housing. And just like Lyta’s home, one in three Nunavut homes house someone who would otherwise be homeless.

Then on Feb., 19, the unit next to Lyta’s caught on fire, forcing her and her entire family to flee. Luckily for them, they were placed in another social housing unit. Until she got the good news, she wasn’t sure what she was going to do.

“I was gonna cry, I guess. Or look for a place to stay a while. They gave this house to me, I was so happy, I was crying when they gave it to me,” said Lyta.

Joamie-Lyta

Joamie Lyta, Iqaluit, Nunavut

Why does she do it? Why does she take in so many? She was raised that way. “My Mom taught me, when I was a little girl, to take care of them. To make sure you take care of them, or if they don’t have a place to stay. So I do,” she said.

Iqaluit has two realities. Up on the hills overlooking the Nunavut capital, there are private homes that start at $500,000 and can go as high as $900,000. Closer to the downtown, social housing.

That difference isn’t lost on Iqaluit’s Mayor, Madeleine Redfern.

“There is definitely a disparity, even in Iqaluit,” said Redfern. “We need more than social housing. Don’t get me wrong, there are over 250 families in Iqaluit alone on the waiting list for social housing. Those are the types of pressures we’re dealing with.”

The Government of Nunavut is scheduled to build 202 housing units over the next two years, in 16 of Nunavut’s communities. Just to get caught up to the current wait list, you would have to build 3,580 homes for 10,500 people.

Nunavut’s Housing Minister George Kuksuk turned down APTN’s request for an interview for this story. His staff said the minister was too busy.

Redfern said she sees how that backlog and wait feeds into all of Nunavut’s numerous medical and social problems.

“It adds to not only pressure for food security, but, school attendance, health issues, there are tremendous other costs because they don’t have enough housing,” she said. “It is a lot of money the government is spending on those other costs, whether it is to deal with health issues, or people who get into trouble with the law, because they’re hurting themselves or their family because they’re in that pressure cooker situation.”

Of the 202 homes scheduled to be built over the next two years, 17 of them will not be for social housing, they will be for Government of Nunavut staff housing, usually for people brought in from the south for a specific job.

That has the President of Nunavut Tunngavik incorporated (NTI), the group that represents 85 per cent of Nunavut residents who are Inuit, wondering aloud.

Aluki Kotierk said that the 85 per cent doesn’t do nearly as well as the remaining 15 per cent.

Average income for an Inuit family in Nunavut is just $20,000 a year. For a non-Inuit family, $85,000.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the houses in social housing, the tenants are Inuit. Staff housing units are held by non-Inuit. Many of the homes, we hear in the Legislative Assembly, are held vacant, (for jobs) that are to be filled, most often by non-Inuit. Given out great need for Inuit to have housing, one would think that those houses could be built as social housing,” said Kotierk. 

Kotierk sees some hope. There are Inuit who, with training, could build those homes. By getting paid to build those homes, they could afford to live in them. The missing ingredient is training.

“I’m starting to become of the view, very much, that the money we invest in Nunavut has to be invested in the people of Nunavut,” said Kotierk. “I think that’s the same for many of the issues we face in Nunavut.”

NTI will get their chance to push that trades training. They are sitting on $175 million from a lawsuit against the federal government for not implementing the Nunavut Land Claim. The money came from an out of court settlement, and is earmarked for training.

They are facing a ticking time bomb in Nunavut’s demographics. Nunavut has Canada’s youngest and fastest growing population, and many of those young people are already living in a home with three generations. When those kids are having kids, will there be homes for them, or will the cycle continue?

kdriscoll@aptn.ca


TUESDAY


Teenagers in Garden Hill First Nation are struggling with their studies due to the overcrowded homes they live in. We hear from a concerned teacher and the Chief who says the First Nation is not getting any financial help to fix or build homes.

 

Brittany Hobson, Garden Hill First Nation, Manitoba 

 

In the northeast corner of Manitoba, along the shores of Island Lake sits the Garden Hill First Nation.

It’s an isolated community.

When it’s cold, there is a winter road that connects people to the nearest community 18 kilometres away.

In the summer, access is only by boat or air.

On top of the isolation, the people of Garden Hill are dealing with a housing crisis.

“My grandkids all sleep on the floor here as you can see,” said Sharon Beardy. “One mother with two little ones and my four grandkids just sleep anywhere. anywhere possible on the floor.”

Overcrowded housing is the new normal for Garden Hill.

The 3,500 residents share 500 homes.

Three or four families can share one residence at a time.

Beardy has lived in her home for the past eight years. She shares her three-bedroom house with 12 others.

She told APTN the living situation is hardest on her two granddaughters.

“With the two older ones, they’re teenagers, they need their privacy but basically this is their kitchen, living room and their bedroom,” she said.

Kelly Ann Monias, 14, and Natalia Beardy, 12, are Beardy’s granddaughters.

Like most young girls their age, they enjoy listening to music by Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.

But unlike many young girls across Canada, they do not have a room to call their own.

“It’s really loud and they bother me all the time,” said Moonias.

The Beardy house also have heating issues. They seal cracks in the walls with foam spray and cover the windows outside with plastic for a quick fix.

Despite the crowded conditions and heating issues – the Beardy’s are one of the lucky families. They have running water.

Other homes have to rely on water trucks that make their way around the community three times a week.

Rachel Keno’s home is one without water.

Keno lives with 15 others in her two-bedroom home. Her two teenage children sleep in the living room.

“Everybody has different sleeping patterns so some will try to go to sleep early and they try to go to bed but they can’t because one wakes up and then everyone wakes up everybody else. it’s hard,” said Keno. “Sometimes they all hang out in my room until I kick everybody out. It’s just kind of difficult for them to adjust and everything. there’s just too many people in here.”

Keno’s son Sebastian is 16 years old. At times he has missed school because he doesn’t get enough sleep.

“He tries to go to bed early because he wants to get up for school,” Keno said. “But they keep waking him up because he sleeps right in the living room. Sometimes I’ll put him in my room just for him to fall asleep.”

The lack of privacy is one of the reasons families turn to the chief and council for help.

“Everyday people are knocking at our band office asking for materials, boards to try and make a small room for their children,” said Chief Dino Flett.

According to Flett, Garden Hill needs 500 more homes. He said they haven’t built a decent house in five years because the remoteness makes it difficult to get materials to the community.

He said people are feeling frustrated – and helpless.

“They do have family problems because of overcrowding,” he said. “They need space. We do have social problems too where frustration kicks in for the teenagers. They get depressed. this is a very touchy subject. Even suicide or runaways.  These kinds of things that happen in our community. This is what we’re dealing with.”

Some people in Garden Hill said they can’t deal with it anymore. They’ve left the community for Winnipeg.

About 1,000 members, almost a third of the community, now live off reserve.

For the growing population of Garden Hill it’s just too hard a place to have a life.

“There isn’t really any place for me to have privacy unless i go out,” said Victoria Barkman, 17. “But during winter it’s too cold and during summer it’s too hot so i don’t really have a place to have my own privacy.”

Overcrowding isn’t the only problem for kids here. They say there’s not much to do.

Right now there is one sports complex in the community.

Beardy’s granddaughters rely on it when they need to get away from the chaos of home.

“We play hockey and basketball. we always go do that,” said Kelly Ann Monias.

But for teens who don’t like sports, there isn’t anywhere else for them to go.

One teacher at the high school is trying to change that.

George Munroe teaches geography and social studies.

He said he tries to make his classroom a safe haven for his students.

“Certainly the school gives our students a place to go, a place where they can strive for in terms of trying to get their education,” said Munroe.

But a lack of resources means Munroe can only do so much.

There is no education facility beyond the high school meaning students must travel to the city to get further training.

This can be hard on students like Barkman who don’t want to leave – but must if they want to pursue a career.

“We need different courses. sometimes we don’t have the courses that we need to get into a career that we want to and sometimes we have to go into the city for that kind of class,” she said.

For now Flett said council is trying to do as much as they can but the reserve needs assistance from both the federal and provincial governments.

The people who call this place home – do the best they can – and hope for a better future.

“Moving is not the answer. I grew up here. I love my community. I love the people that surround this community,” said Beardy.

bhobson@aptn.ca


WEDNESDAY


In Kitcisakik there is no water or electricity. Some homes, that have been described as shacks, have been renovated since a 2009 program as been put in place – but the community is divided about relocating. Some people want to stay while many youth would prefer to move to a place like Val d’Or where there are showers. With a new housing program starting in May what will change in Kitcisakik?


Danielle Rochette, Kitcisakik, Québec 

 

Part of daily life for Veronique Papatie saying this to her children.

“Be careful watch your step,” she says.

The warning is for her children, and the nine members of her household, to watch their step getting into the outhouse.

“When we have to use the toilet, it’s here,” said Papatie. “Whether in the summer or the winter.”

For electricity, her family counts on a small and noisy generator.

There’s no running water in the house either – which complicates everything.

But the situation doesn’t seem to discourage Papatie.

With money from the province in 2010, she expanded and renovated her house.

“When I was a little girl, my dream was to have my own bedroom. Now as a parent, I am able to provide my children with their own bedroom as well,” she said.

Since 2010, 44 homes have been renovated in the community thanks to groups of emergency architects who call themselves, The Frontier Foundation.

And $1.5 million in provincial funding over five years since 2010.

A cooperative, managed by the community, has also been created for workforce training and housing renovations.

‘It’s great to see members of our comminuty get their houses renovated,” said Mélanie Deslauriers, the community’s project manager. “It brings pride and tranquility to a household because there’s less anxiety or concern for things like mold. Partition walls in the home can also help create intamicy and privacy. There has been a lot of positivity that has come from the renovations as well as the training now that people live in updated homes. ”

In Sept. 2016, the Québec government responded to the cooperative’s request for more money by investing another $2 millions dollars to complete the renovation of 90 houses.

“We have an agreement from last year up to 2020 for five years,” said Deslauriers. “We get about $400,000 per year which totals $2 million for renovations in the community. But we have to understand that the account will not be completed. We will still need to renovate houses after these 4 years.”

Raised by his grand parents until the age of five, Charlie Papatie comes from a nomadic life.

“A house wasn’t really essential for us before. We just went wherever and lived where we wanted to because it was our territory,” he said. “Today, we say we want an adequate home, so we can be comfortable in our house.”

Now Charlie Papatie wants his house to be renovated soon.

He said an adequate house is more than new windows, doors and walls – he wants running water, electricity and a sewage system.

“A shower and toilet is what’s missing. That’s what the people in our community are always talking about it. they tell me they would like all those basic needs for their children,” he said.

But those services might come at a cost to their connection to the land.

Kitcisakik is unique.

The community has always refused to become a reserve under the Indian Act.

And while some Kitcisakik members endure and continue to hope for a better community – many young people are leaving.

People like Vince Papatie, 32. He moved and is now living and working in Val d’Or.

He has no plans to move back with his young daughter to a community without basic services.

‘I don’t need to wake up at night to keep a fire going or walk 3 kilometers for water,” he said. ‘I didn’t like taking showers in a public place, we got sores on our feet. it wasn’t clean and or healthy. I deserve a house with a toilet, running water and a shower.”

But Vince Papatie admits he’s loosing his culture, language and is experiencing an identity crisis by living away.

When asked about returning to Kitcisakik if it had adequate services, he didn’t hesitate.

‘I’d return in a heartbeat. that’s what I tell my colleagues at work. As soon it’s a real community, I’ll go back home, because it’s still my home,” he said.

The community proposed a village where they can access their traditional territory and be recognized as the owners of the land.

But in 2002, the federal government said no.

The growing division within the community about the location of the village, and the insufficient investments to complete housing renovations by 2020 leaves the community’s young people with little hope to return to their home land in a near future.

drochette@aptn.ca


THURSDAY

There is no running water in Wasagamack, a northern Manitoba First Nation only accessible by fly-in and ice-road. We’ll meet a family there who has concerns about bathing their child because sometimes it causes rashes. And we hear from a pediatrician who talks about how poor housing affects the health of young children.


Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais, Wasagamack First Nation, Manitoba

 

Cleaning is an endless task for this Kookum Norah Whiteway.

“The mould is right there,” she said. “It’s everywhere.

Whiteway cleans, disinfects and bleaches–but the mould grows back within days.

It worries her because she has four grandchildren in the home.

“I don’t want my grandsons to get sick. I have to get up once in awhile and i have to check my grandson all the time see how he’s breathing,” she said.

Asthma, bleeding noses, nausea, headaches and frequent colds to name a few of the sicknesses her grandkids have been facing.

And it’s not just mould and air quality that concerns her.

In a room where her grandson’s should be having a warm bath before bed, the sewage is backed up and the water isn’t working.

A slop pail has to be used by the nine people who live here.

“It’s really awful,” said Whiteway. I can’t sleep at night, sometimes I worry too much.

There are also exposed wires and outlets.

Whiteway has lived here for 30 years–before that her mother owned it and to her knowledge, the electrical system in this house has never been upgraded.

She said it’s a fire trap.

These third world living conditions are hidden in the middle of Canada.

Wasagamack first nation is a remote community, 600 kilometres, two planes and a car ride across a frozen lake north of Winnipeg.

Getting housing materials up here is complicated and expensive.

There are only a few months every winter when delivery trucks can use the ice road.

About half of the people in Wasagamack are under 18.

Six-year-old Brihanna Wood is one of them.

“Our house is too small,” she said.

She wants a room of her own.

But her parents have even bigger concerns for Brihanna and her little sister.

“We don’t use the tap water because we don’t know how clean the water tanks are,” said mother Tricia Wood. “So we just buy water for her…bottled water. Even with bathing sometimes it causes rashes because the water is not good.”

And that’s only when they’re lucky enough to have water delivered.

“Right now we haven’t had running water for three days already,” she said.

Like every child, clean, running drinkable water is critical for Brihanna’s well being…

“My daughter, first of all, she has type one diabetes so she needs to be cleaned regularly or she’ll have, she’ll get yeast infections. she gets them a lot because of sugars,” said wood.

In Winnipeg, pediatricians are researching how things like poor housing can impact the health of kids like brihanna.

Dr. Brandy Wicklow and her team believe that poor housing is one aspect of a national crisis that goes hand in hand with things like nutrition needs and a lack of healthcare services.

“I think we need to see an improvement overall in the access to care for these kids that live with a chronic illness and their supports whether that be the basic neccesities of life that we talk about,” she said. “Housing being one of them, a safe place to live with proper insulation and heating and running water.”

In Wasagamack, there’s only one nursing station here to serve this growing community.

As these houses continue to fall apart—more children are born into poverty.

There are about 2,500 band members living on reserve and only about 200 houses.

Most are in need of renovations and are without running water.

It’s a reality even the chief himself lives.

“I have a multi-family home/dwelling myself. I have my son, his wife, children living in my home and i see the impacts of overcrowding directly,” said Chief Alex McDougall. “The overcrowding is definitely still an issue in Wasagamack. We’ve seen outbreaks of various communicable diseases through the overcrowding.”

The federal budget released March 22, promised an investment of $4 billion over ten years to go towards housing, water and other infrastructure…

Mcdougall hopes some of that makes its way to help his community.

“To be able to get everybody into a home where they feel comfortable, have the proper infrastructure in place, water and sewer in place, and be able to have each child growing up in their own room, have their own privacy,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Brihanna Wood dreams of – her own room to play in.

“I want my big purple room,” she said.

srobinson@aptn.ca


FRIDAY


APTN National News

The status of housing on First Nations across Canada is just a few years away from reaching epidemic levels says the Assembly of First Nations.

“We’re on the brink of (an) epidemic,” said Kevin Hart, a regional chief with the AFN in Manitoba. “(If) there isn’t any real investments done immediately it will reach epidemic proportion in the next few years.”

Hart held the AFN’s housing portfolio for years and estimates 175,000 houses are needed to immediately address shortages across the country.

The federal government pegs the number much lower at about 21,000.

“You can see we’re being set up for failure right off the bat,” said Hart in an interview with APTN Investigates reporter Melissa Ridgen that is airs Friday at 6:30 p.m. in her story: Housing Crisis Deconstructed.

In Justin Trudeau’s first budget as prime minister he earmarked more than $8 billion in funding for Indigenous people. Many called it “historic” including AFN national chief Perry Bellegarde.

A child plays on the floor of a room in Garden Hill.

A child plays on the floor of a room in Garden Hill.

Just over $500 million of the 2016 budget was to go towards housing on First Nations.

It may sound like a lot of money, but a closer look at the numbers show it doesn’t appear to buy many new homes.

The money was spread out over two years and in 2016 the federal government was expected to build 300 homes with that money.

“Buy lottery tickets,” said Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay. “You have a better chance of getting a house.”

The money was also supposed to go towards servicing 340 lots, such as sewer hook ups, and renovate 1,400 homes according to statistics provided to Angus’ office last year. The government hopes to build, service and renovate the same amount in 2017.

“I think Canadians are getting their eyes opened but what they probably find really hard to believe is that the government doesn’t make it a priority,” said Angus.

Going by the government’s number of 21,000 new homes means Ottawa is addressing about three per cent of what it says is needed with the 2016 funding.

If you go by the AFN’s the funding barely registers.

APTN National News asked the Indigenous Affairs for basic statistics on housing, such as confirming the number of homes actually built in 2016, but has not received a response.

Angus has tried to get deeper into the housing crisis by asking the Trudeau government for statistics on the number of houses built on every reserve over the last few years.

The government wouldn’t provide them.

An access to information request in 2016 came back almost completely redacted.

“Canadian’s have to ask themselves what exactly department of Indian Affairs is doing when a simple request about the state of housing and housing plans is considered a state secret,” he said. “When they black out information about housing, or what they’re spending in schools. That tells me they’re lying to the Canadian people and that’s unacceptable. Canadians have a right to know.”

housing2

The housing situation on First Nations has been given special attention by APTN National News this week in the series: A Roof Overhead.

Stories have highlighted what families face in different parts of the country.

Overcrowding is the way of life for Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba.

“My grandkids all sleep on the floor here as you can see,” said Sharon Beardy. “One mother with two little ones and my four grandkids just sleep anywhere. Anywhere possible on the floor.”

The 3,500 residents share 500 homes.

Three or four families can share one residence at a time.

In Kitcisakik, an Anicinape First Nation five hours north of Montréal, it’s known for its third world living conditions.

The community of 400 live without electricity, running or a sewage system.

“A shower and toilet is what’s missing. That’s what the people in our community are always talking about it. They tell me they would like all those basic needs for their children,” Charlie Papatie told APTN reporter Danielle Rochette.

The Quebec government has provided small amounts of money to renovate homes over the last several years and last year said it would provide an additional $2 million to help renovate more.

KITCISAKIK HOUSING 1

Kitcisakik, an Anicinape First Nation five hours north of Montréal.

Nunavut has faced a housing crisis since the territory was established in 1999.

APTN reporter Kent Driscoll found that despite evidence that there is a housing in Iqaluit there is little being done about it.

Fifty per cent of all homes in Nunavut are social housing – homes with subsidized rent for people who can’t afford it. Of those social units, 63 per cent are in need of major repairs.

The wait list to get into those beat up homes is long. One in five of all Nunavut residents are on a waiting list for social housing.

When you ask Iqaluit’s Joamie Lyta to explain just how many people live in her small apartment, she needs to stop and count on her fingers.

“Let me count, there’s me, him, my son, my granddaughter, my grandson, my other granddaughter, my nephew, my other son. There’s nine of us,” explained the social housing resident in Iqaluit.

Nine in the day time. At night she often adds two more to her over crowded home.

“My other two brothers, they come to, to sleep at my house, they got no place to stay,” she said. “So sometimes there’s 11 or 12 in my house.”

It sounds extreme, but for Nunavut, this isn’t the exception, it is the rule.

Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The federal government just announced in the 2017 budget it would fund $240 million over the next 11 years for housing in Nunavut but has been told the amount needed easily exceeds $2 billion.

The Government of Nunavut is scheduled to build 202 housing units over the next two years, in 16 of Nunavut’s communities. Just to get caught up to the current wait list, you would have to build 3,580 homes for 10,500 people.

Nunavut’s Housing Minister George Kuksuk turned down APTN’s request for an interview for this story. His staff said the minister was too busy.

APTN reporter Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs reports on the lack of affordable housing in the Northwest Territories on the 6 p.m. national news.

Like many places across Canada, there are a lot of families in need of support but little housing. On top of that people in territory face some of the highest costs of living in the country.

news@aptn.ca


Melissa Ridgen, APTN Investigates

MelindaMcIvor

Melinda McIvor of Sandy Bay First Nation in Manitoba takes APTN on a tour of her rat-infested home.

“Housing crisis Deconstructed” Melissa Ridgen looks into the growing housing crisis on First Nations across Canada. Mold, rats and raw sewage plague many of the places Indigenous people call home. So what has the federal government done about it over the decades and how many more studies will it take before they find a solution?

mridgen@aptn.ca