'We shouldn't be living like this'

A housing manager with the Attawapiskat First Nation says five families on the reserve will likely spend the winter in tent frames.

Attawapiskat First Nation grapples with lack of housing and looming cold weather

Households in the Attawapiskat First Nation are so crowded, families are building shacks and tent frames to handle the overflow.

A housing manager with the Attawapiskat First Nation says five families on the reserve will likely spend the winter in tent frames.

Monique Sutherland said there are about 180 people on the waiting list for housing in the community. Households are so crowded, families are building shacks and tent frames to handle the overflow.

"When you're in a remote community there's no help at all," Sutherland said.

"You live in a tent ... you have nowhere to go, and it's -40C sometimes here."

Sutherland said she figured the community needs at least 150 new houses — but added the First Nation can't afford to build them, because it's in debt.

'Frustrating job'

Sutherland has five family members living in her two bed-room trailer. It's so crowded, one of her sons has to sleep in a shack in her backyard.

"It's a very frustrating job," she said.

"You want to do so much, but you can't because there's no money, no funding to help these people. Sometimes I just feel ready to give up, but I can't do that."

She said much of the existing housing on the reserve is in bad repair.

"There’s not enough funding to help these people ... it's just that we shouldn't be living like this, that's all."

The chief of Attawapiskat has not been available for comment. Neither has the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs.

This week Attawapiskat is expecting a visit from the MP and MPP for Timmins-James Bay. Charlie Angus and Gilles Bisson are making the trip to get the latest on the housing shortage.