With nowhere to live, Behchoko man applies to Aurora College to find housing

John Naedzo's been living with friends and family since his mother died last year. When she died, he had nowhere to go. Now he's applying to Aurora College, hoping that could get him into student housing.

Homeless people in Behchoko need to be creative to find housing solutions, says John Naedzo

John Naedzo is shown at the Tlicho Friendship Centre in 2016. He's had difficulty finding a place to live, so he's now applying to Aurora College to see if he can qualify for student housing. (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)

John Naedzo is applying to classes at Aurora College in Fort Smith. He doesn't care what course he gets into. He just wants to be accepted.

Then, he can try qualifying for student housing and have a place to live.

"It's a four-month program, from January until April," Naedzo said. "I could stay at the student housing until April. That's the main plan, apply for college and get accommodation."

Naedzo, 46, is from Behchoko, roughly 100 kilometres north of Yellowknife. He's been living with friends and family since his mother died last year. The home they'd shared was for seniors only. When she died, he had nowhere to go.

Naedzo estimates there are 100 others living in Behchoko without a consistent place to stay.

The community doesn't have a homeless shelter open at nights where they can sleep, so people are left to fend for themselves, he explained.

"You've got to rely on friends and family," he said. "It's not just me."

Behchoko has dozens of boarded-up homes unfit for people to live in. With long waitlists for social housing, Naedzo says people need to be creative when finding shelter.  

"Some are building cabins on the highway, that's what some of the homeless people are doing now," he said. "If you're single and looking for housing it's kind of hard."

Dozens of homes in Behchoko, N.W.T. are boarded up, like this one shown here. (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)
Last week, the federal government detailed a $40-billion plan for social housing over the next 10 years. The
ambitious plan promises to repair and build tens of thousands of new affordable housing units across Canada  

During the plan's unveiling Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called housing a human right. He promised to create a national housing council to continue working on the plan, though it's still short on details on how it will affect the North.  

Anything that would fix the boarded-up homes in Behchoko would be worth it for Naedzo, who says he wants to stay in his hometown, but can't.

"I feel like moving somewhere else, Yellowknife, Fort Smith or down south," he said. "I'll do anything to find suitable housing."

With files from Celine Football, Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi