North

Whati, N.W.T., woman at risk of infection needs better housing, doctors tell housing corp

Doctors of a Whati, N.W.T., woman with a suppressed immune system are asking the NWT Housing Corporation to find her a safer place to live. Her current home has a mould problem and no running water or toilet.

Georgina Wedawin lives in a mouldy home after being evicted by housing corp

Georgina Wedawin's doctors are asking the NWT Housing Corporation and the Whati Community Government to find her a place to live that is free of mould, as she takes immunosuppressants and is at risk for infections. (submitted)

Doctors of a Whati, N.W.T., woman with a suppressed immune system are asking the NWT Housing Corporation to find her a safer place to live.  

Georgina Wedawin is on a wait list for public housing — after being evicted from her unit and and currently lives in a home with a mould problem and no running water or toilet.

She was diagnosed with vasculitis in 2014. She takes nine medications, including immunosuppressants that weaken her immune system and put her at risk of getting a serious infection.

"It's really mouldy in the house," Wedawin said.

'You can just smell the mould'

"We live in my mother-in-law's old house," she said. "During the springtime when the snow's melting, the water goes under the house and you can just smell the mould from it when it gets dried up. They tell me it's not good for my health condition."

Three doctors from Yellowknife and Edmonton have written letters to the NWT Housing Corporation and the Whati Community Government asking for Wedawin to be given better housing.

Georgina Wedawin says that in the spring, water goes under the house and fosters the growth of mould. She takes immunosuppressants to treat vasculitis, putting her at risk of infection. (submitted by Helen Wedawin)

Dr. Amy Hendricks treated Wedawin for pneumonia at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife in May 2015.

"Because of her increased risk of infection and her immunosuppression, she requires housing that is appropriate for her condition," she wrote to the NWT Housing Corporation.

"That would mean housing that is adequately heated, free of mould and with hot and cold water available within her home."

Long wait lists, limited resources

Wedawin and her husband were evicted from their public housing unit in Whati in 2013 for not paying their rent. They owe more than $19,000 in arrears to the NWT Housing Corporation and have been slowly trying to pay off their debt whenever they can find work.

The N.W.T. housing minister wouldn't speak directly to the case, but Caroline Cochrane said it's a situation she sees all too often.

"It's difficult because within the communities we have lack of employment and that makes it difficult for people," she said.

"People are living off of income support or traditional hunting and gathering activities, which make it difficult to make ends meet."

The home Georgina Wedawin lives in lacks indoor plumbing and has an outhouse. Because of her increased risk of infection, doctors are recommending she live in housing with hot and cold water available. (submitted by Helen Wedawin)
The NWT Housing Corporation is owed more than $1.6 million in arrears.

Wedawin is just one of 783 people across the territory on a wait list for public housing. In Whati, with a population of just under 500, there is public housing available for 24 people. Seventeen others, including Wedawin, are on a wait list.

"The need... keeps increasing but our availability of public housing is actually not increasing at the same rate," Cochrane said.

One of the NWT Housing Corporation's main sources of funding is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a federal housing authority. That funding has been decreasing year after year. The CMHC has notified the territorial government that it will no longer provide any funding by 2038.

The federal budget released earlier this month earmarks $12 million for affordable housing in the N.W.T. It's unclear if any of that money will go to building more public housing units.

Meanwhile, Wedawin said her doctors are trying to find her a place to stay in Yellowknife before the spring melt brings more mould.

Clarifications

  • This story has been changed from its original version to clarify that Housing Minister Caroline Cochrane was speaking in general terms about housing in the N.W.T. and not Georgina Wedawin's case specifically.
    Apr 13, 2016 7:05 PM CT

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