Working and caring for family, but still homeless in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T.
Belinda Gully stays with her mom in a log cabin while taking any job she can to get ahead of arrears
Belinda Gully stood up in the community hall in Fort Good Hope, seizing the opportunity to speak to the delegation from the territorial government at the community's first housing forum.
She spoke for about 10 minutes, describing how she works as much as she can, raises two kids, and cares for her mom, all in a home that has a caved-in ceiling, ill-fitting windows and a door that doesn't keep the wind out.
Gully told the story of her personal housing crisis.
The story had a major effect on Caroline Cochrane, the minister responsible for housing in the Northwest Territories, who was in town for the first day of a unique, three-day housing forum designed to tackle the community's housing crisis.
But first, Cochrane promised on the spot that she'd see what can be done to help Gully.
$4K in debt, and few ways out
Gully lives at her mom's house with her daughter Abigail and son Adam. That's because she can't find a place of her own, and even if she could, she can't get social housing because she owes the N.W.T. Housing Corporation $4,000.
"We pray for a home every night," Gully said. "Abigail prays for her own room, her own toy house, she loves her dolls. My son, he loves his own space too, he prays for his own room as well, our own living room, a kitchen."
Gully moved back in with her mom two months ago. Before that she'd been living at the women's shelter in Inuvik after leaving a bad relationship. It left her homeless.
"It was a really tough three years. Going from home to home, [the kids] were always sick, they barely went to school," she said.
"But I told myself, you have to get this done, you have to pick up where we left off."
But when she moved to Fort Good Hope, she found there weren't any jobs available for her. That meant she couldn't do anything about the debt she owed the government, keeping her off the waiting list for social housing.
"I tried every day to find a job, I bugged the band office, I bugged everybody, asking if they had a small business if they needed help," she said.
But then, a phone call.
Cleaning, baking, moving forward
The owner of one of the bed and breakfasts in town offered her a job cleaning and maintaining the place. There was another phone call a few days later, offering her a job cleaning up the drop-in centre and the airport. She's also baking pies during this week's housing forum.
It's all going to pay off her debt and get her into a place of her own.
"I'm so happy that I got those calls," Gully said. "I'm so grateful that somebody came to me, offered jobs, it's so great, that feeling of trying to get rid of your bills."
As for the repairs her mom's house needs, Gully said someone from the housing corporation came to take photos on Tuesday, and she expects Cochrane will keep her word.
But what she really wants is a house of her own.
"Sleeping in your own bed, flicking through the channels on your TV. That's freedom," she said. "It's your own rules. You own everything."
Alex Brockman will be in Fort Good Hope this week during the housing forum sharing stories about the housing crisis and what people are doing about it.
Do you have a story about housing in your community? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org