This tent is home to a family of four this week as they wait for social housing. (Photo Tatanniq Idlout)
Brian Tagalik and his family have pitched a tent outside the Nunavut legislative building in Iqaluit because they are homeless.
Tagalik said his wife and two children, aged 7 and 18 months, slept in the nylon tent Monday night and plan to do so again Tuesday and Wednesday night.
All to bring attention to what they say is a homelessness crisis in the capital and embarrass politicians into acting.
“We have a foamy, sleeping bags and a Coleman stove,” Tagalik said in a Facebook conversation with APTN News Tuesday.
“We’ve been homeless four years; couch surfing from friends and family.”
The tent he borrowed from his brother is not much protection against the Arctic winds and temperature, which dipped to -4 C overnight.
But Tagalik feels he has no choice but to put his homelessness situation on public display.
“I want this to not happen again, to any family,” he said. “That walk I took with family in tow, will stick with me forever.
“Tears streaming, scared, hurt, lost, but somehow I knew the toughest part has passed.”
Both he and his wife are working and his daughters go to school.
But he says they cannot afford to rent an apartment for more than $2,000 a month and have been on the waiting list for five years for more affordable public housing.
Iqaluit MLA Adam Arreak-Lightstone says more than 400 people are on that list.
“This demonstration is putting a face to the situation,” he said in a telephone interview.
“This will put more pressure on the Iqaluit Housing Authority to do what they can.”
Arreak-Lightstone suggested housing officials “get creative” and build or retro-fit new structures instead of the usual five- or 10-plex.
Everything from “tiny homes” to shipping containers should be looked at as alternatives, he said, to help ease the crisis families like Tagalik find themselves in.
He says housing stock also has to be replaced quicker after fires and maintenance problems.
“This peaceful demonstration has to be done to open up the eyes of housing and create some compassion towards those people that are actually in need,” Arreak-Lightstone said in a telephone interview.
Tagalik would like to see more homeless people join him in establishing a Tent City like those being formed in southern Canada.
Tatanniq Idlout is also homeless in Iqaluit and has been couch surfing.
She says she’s proud of Tagalik for going public.
“They say it’s hard to provide statistics on homelessness in Nunavut because it’s ‘hidden homelessness’,” she said.
“You can’t hide this if it’s on the steps of our government.”