How Fort Good Hope is faring as it tackles a housing crisis
After 2 years of work, the challenge is to keep up momentum after early successes
As people living in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., continue working to tackle their housing crisis, they're finding out just how difficult that job is turning out to be.
For nearly two years, the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society has taken the lead by developing programs to address the ongoing issue of homelessness and inadequate housing in the community.
Some of its initiatives included hosting a three-day housing forum in December 2017, and paying for a mobile sawmill that started operating last summer. The lumber from about 600 logs cut on that sawmill is now being seasoned and the plan is to start the sawmill up again in the spring.
Arthur Tobac, one of the leaders of the housing society, said the challenge now is keeping up the momentum as they continue working on this complex issue.
"Initially when we held that three-day forum, it felt like there was a lot of hope and a vision," said Tobac. "[People] felt that somebody was trying to do something about the homelessness and housing. We're still trying to resolve a lot of those issues.
"But I think people always have this idea things can happen immediately, but [they can't] when you're dealing with something this large," he said.
Roughly 50 of the 500 people who live in Fort Good Hope are homeless, according to the housing society's latest statistics — compiled in 2017. Many people stay with relatives or friends in overcrowded and inadequate housing units.
Addiction and other underlying factors like unemployment play into homelessness as well, making it challenging to help them, Tobac said.
"We want to help people who are intent on getting their lives sorted out, so that housing is available to them at the end of it," he said.
There have been some missteps as well. The K'asho Got'ine Housing Society had to put plans for an emergency shelter for women and children on hold. The building that was supposed to house the shelter wasn't suitable and it's estimated that repairs will cost $1 million.
The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and officials with Yellowknife organizations have consulted with the housing society on developing creative housing programs, Tobac said.
"The more you learn about these things the better off it is at the end of it, so that you don't create something and then find out it doesn't work," he said. "That's what we're hoping to do: create something that fits the community needs."
The housing society's next step is opening a transitional housing program for men.
Crews are now working on repairing and renovating a three-bedroom unit, which will house between four and eight people, he said.
Tobac said they're planning the programming that will happen at the facility, such as alcohol management, employment counselling and other life skills training.
He hopes to have it up and running later this spring.
"That's the idea, get this thing on the road, get it moving," he said. "People in the community are in really dire needs."