Housing crunch hits Deline, N.W.T.

The small Sahtu community of Deline is in crisis as many people are living in shacks without running water or electricity.
Tina Wrigley, whose home is pictured here, is one of the people in Deline who have had serious housing issues. Others have faced evictions for not being able to pay rent. (Hilary Bird/CBC)
Tina Wrigley says she had to give her kids up to the Department of Health and Social Services because she didn't always have running water at her house. (CBC)

The small Sahtu community of Deline is in crisis as many people are living in shacks without running water or electricity.

In her one-room cabin, Tina Wrigley sews Christmas presents, which are the only presents she can afford for the children she gave up so they wouldn't have to live in the house with no running water and barely any heat.

Their pictures line the walls.

"I love my babies, I really, really love my babies," said Wrigley.

Tina and her husband lived in a public housing unit in Deline. When Tina's husband left her last year, she was left with large amount of debt and an eviction notice.

She and her children moved to her current house.

One day, Wrigley says they ran out of water. Her children were forced to go to school without brushing their teeth.

That's when Wrigley says she decided she had to give them up to the Department of Health and Social Services.

"It’s hard because I don’t have my babies with me. It’s because I don’t have a home," she said.

Dozens of people in this community live in shacks, many of them built with any scraps they could find after they were evicted from public housing for not paying rent.

The house Wrigley was evicted from is still sitting empty, like several others, because people can't afford them.

Leadership in the community says it’s troubling because the small community’s homelessness rate has reached 20 per cent.

"There’s a housing crisis. People are living where there’s no running water. People aren’t living up to standards," said Pauline Roche, the senior administrative officer for the Deline First Nation band.

Roche says the high cost of living and lack of employment in this fly-in community is what's driven many to desperate conditions.

She's calling on the territorial government to come up with a solution.

The Northwest Territories Housing Minister, Robert C. Mcleod, is open to that idea but doesn't see this as a crisis.  His main solution is for people just to pay their rent.

"There are some people that just haven’t stepped up to the plate and realized that housing is not free. They have an obligations and responsibility to pay rent," said McLeod.

Wrigley says she can't pay rent and support her kids with a $10-an-hour job at the local Co-op store.

"So all I can do is sit at home and do crafts and pray that my babies will be here for Christmas," said Wrigley.