Homeless in Igloolik: Family of 5 lives in a tent

Neeve Nutarariaq, her boyfriend, and three children are living in a tent outside of Igloolik, Nunavut, because they say there's a lack of housing in the community.

Couple with three children can't find housing

With nowhere else to go, a tent has become Neeve Nutarariaq's only option. Amid a row of houses, including a few vacant ones, Nutarariaq's family of five has set up home.

"It's just terrible living out here in a tent with my three kids," the 21-year-old said. 

The mother of three and her boyfriend were kicked out of his parents' home. The couple got into a fight and found themselves out on the street.

Above the Arctic Circle in the small hamlet of Igloolik, Nunavut, housing options are limited.

Her parents told her they didn't have room for another family, so Nutarariaq moved them into a tent. 

To keep warm, the family uses a small camping stove. One night it fell over, burning a hole into the floor.

"And that was right in front of my children so it was kind of scary," Nutarariaq said.

She says she doesn't know what to do when winter hits.

Similar stories play out across the territory's 25 communities. More than 3,000 households in Nunavut are estimated to be homeless, waiting for government-assisted housing, according to the Nunavut Housing Corporation. 

The head of the territory's housing corporation estimates it will take at least $1 billion to meet the demand across the territory.

Empty houses

Down the street from Nutarariaq's tent sits a few empty housing apartments belonging to the Government of Nunavut.

"The GN's saving those units for staff but it seems no one wants to work in Igloolik," said the Mayor of Igloolik, Peter Ivalu. 

"We see these units, vacant units, year in, year out."

The Nunavut Housing Authority say the vacancies are necessary to ensure existing staff housing is available "to meet the most pressing GN operational needs at any given time."

Ivalu knows firsthand that options are limited if you can't squeeze yourself into the already overcrowded homes in town.

"You either live in a tent, or live in a cabin," he said.

That's what he did when he moved back to Igloolik from Iqaluit in 2009. It's obvious to Ivalu that Nunavut needs more housing. 

"We can't do it without the federal assistance but I'd also like to see private businesses build more houses," he said, adding he couldn't recall the last time any private company built homes in the hamlet.

"Unless we look at more options on how we can alleviate the housing shortage, we'll continue to see a housing shortage."