North

N.W.T. woman bails sewage out of her bathtub yearly, doesn't know where to turn for help

Every winter for the past five years, Łutselk'e, N.W.T., resident Mildred Lockhart finds sewage backed up in her bathtub, and her application to the government for funds to fix is was denied. MLA Richard Edjericon said it's an example of excessive barriers.

Mildred Lockhart says a gov't funding application was denied because the homeowner's salary was too high

Mildred Lockhart lives in her father's house in Łutselk'e, N.W.T. She's been denied territorial funding for housing repairs and doesn't know where to turn to get help. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

Every winter for the past five years, Łutselk'e, N.W.T., resident Mildred Lockhart finds sewage backed up in her bathtub. 

"This year I had to bail about 16 buckets of [sewage]," she said. 

The problem usually starts around December and persists until the weather begins to warm in March. 

She says it has to do with old pipes freezing over and though the band hired someone to thaw out the sewage, the problem persists year after year.

After seeing a poster at the Łutselk'e airport for Housing NWT's emergency repair program, Lockhart applied for territorial funding.

She was told the application was denied because the homeowner's salary was too high to qualify for the program's $60,000 income cap. 

The house belongs to Lockhart's father and the funding is based on his salary. 

Meanwhile Lockhart said that "every payday, I probably have about $50 to $100, that's it, after I'm done paying my bills."

Lockhart isn't able to transfer her father's home into her own name because of outstanding arrears. 

MLA Richard Edjericon said it's an example of excessive barriers and red tape excluding many of those who need help from getting it. 

MLA Richard Edjericon said Lockhart's situation is an example of excessive barriers and red tape excluding many of those who need help from getting it.  (Legislative Assembly)

Edjericon pointed out Lockhart's sewage problem in the Legislative Assembly on March 10. 

'We have to have a heart'

Directing his comments to the Minister of Finance, he said "the barrier here is your policies that are prohibiting our people from getting help." 

Edjericon told CBC News that Lockhart's case is one example, but that housing issues persist all over the territory and Housing NWT allows them to continue by denying funding applications. 

He pointed to the housing dollars allocated to the territory in the last federal budget and questioned what that money is going toward, if not helping residents in need.

"The bottom line is people in the communities need help, whether it be in our riding or throughout the Northwest Territories," Edjericon said. "We have to have a heart."

Housing NWT said for privacy reasons it couldn't comment on individual applications but that criteria for their programs are to target "people who are in the most need."

Spokesperson Ben Fraser also said that Housing NWT is reviewing its programs. 

Lockhart has had sewage backed up in her bathtub each year for the past five years. (submitted by Mildred Lockhart)

In an email, Fraser wrote that the renewal work will consider how the department considers "need" and "whether the programs that we deliver are in fact helping those who need our help most." 

He said work will happen with input from the Council of Leaders Housing Working Group as well as "internal and external stakeholders."

Fraser added that program advisors are available to meet with homeowners to discuss their circumstances and what options may exist for them. 

He provided contact information for the North Slave District Office at (867) 767-9332 ext 85121.

Lockhart said she did meet with a representative of Housing NWT in May. 

While she wasn't sure what his position was, Lockhart describes the representative looking through the crawl space in her father's house. 

She said the man told her he suspects one of the pipes burst through the floor joists. 

He told Lockhart to put in an application and that "it shouldn't be a problem, you should be approved," Lockhart said, describing their conversation — although its unclear if the Housing NWT representative was aware her father owns the house.

She said that housing is the most pressing issue in the community and that she's tired of government commitments going unfulfilled. 

Lockhart said she's written a letter to the band office to get the issue resolved or to help identify next steps.

"All these promises they make for us and nothing's been done." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. Reach her at: natalie.pressman@cbc.ca.

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