Shacks, tents or vans: Dawson City, Yukon, summer workers open to any kind of home

It is notoriously hard to find a place to live for the summer in Dawson City, but that doesn't stop people from returning summer after summer. An influx of seasonal workers nearly doubles the population, and they are not picky about where they'll live.

'You just have to come up there, and everything will fall into place'

Marina Osmond is hoping this photo will help her find a home for the summer in Dawson City, where it’s notoriously hard to find a place to live as seasonal workers nearly double the population every year. (Submitted by Marina Osmond)

It is notoriously hard to find a place to live for the summer in Dawson City, but that doesn't stop people from returning summer after summer. An influx of seasonal workers nearly doubles the population, and they are not picky about where they live.

"I'm quite willing to live in rustic accommodations, or sub-standard, to some people," said Alex Hallbom, who is returning to the Klondike this week for his second summer.  

Hallbom is drawn to the off-grid living potential in West Dawson, which is across the Yukon River from the main part of town.

"I think it's as good a place to live as any you'll find in Canada," he said.

The allure of Dawson draws tourists, and those who serve them – most seasonal workers are employed by bars, restaurants and hotels. While it is easy to get a job, only the lucky ones get staff accommodation. Most find a shack, tent, van, or a spot on a friend's couch.  

But not everyone wants to spend all summer camping. The Klondike Development Organization is working to provide more housing options for people wanting to move to Dawson City. It also wants to develop a community housing project that would provide affordable apartments to those considering moving to Dawson permanently.

Summer scramble

Marina Osmond is returning for her fourth summer, even though she knows the housing reality.

"You just have to come up there, and everything will fall into place, which I sort of believe, if it's meant to happen it will happen."

This year, her strategy is to personalize her online plea for a place to stay, which is one of many on the town's buy-sell Facebook page. She posted a picture of herself in the Tombstone mountains and personalized her ad by writing that she wants to try to stay for the winter one year.

Having a strategy is a must. Osmond said she has a friend who moved nine times in one year. Another woman recently posted online about living in a place so run-down and mouldy that people thought it was abandoned. The woman came out of the shower to find them taking her things.

"Give this girl a room, she needs it more than me," Osmond said.

For her, it's less about security, and more about living in Dawson City.

"I'm going back mainly because I miss it. It's gorgeous and I feel like I can be my true self there."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.