Nunavut housing crisis: 'Dire straits' in Igloolik

Without a roof over his head, 70 year-old Theo Kangok built his own. And, he says he's not alone. Homelessness is a reality across Nunavut while hundreds wait for a place to live.

'The waiting period is such a long time to finally get housing. I'm getting tired'

Without a roof over his head, 70-year-old Theo Kangok built his own. 

Two years ago the senior gathered materials from the dump and parts from old shipping containers and built a cabin along the rocky shores of Igloolik, Nunavut.

It's where he and his wife live in the warmer months and he says, they're not the only ones.

The island of Igloolik is home to around 1,800 people, not enough homes and plenty of frustration.

"It's not just me in this situation living in a cabin. I've seen others living in the same situation while on the waiting list," Kangok said in Inuktitut.
Theo Kangok and his wife Salome represent one of 102 households waiting on a social housing unit in Igloolik. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

"The waiting period is such a long time to finally get housing. I'm getting tired of waiting."

After retiring from his job as an electrical mechanic with the local housing authority, Kangok couldn't afford to keep his home. He sold it and he and his wife moved in with his daughter, her two children and his eldest son.

For more than a year, he and his wife have been waiting for social housing. As of January, 102 households were on the wait list, according to the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

"I think we're in dire straits," said Igloolik's local housing association manager, Solomon Allurut, who oversees the social housing stock in the hamlet.

"I think we're dire right now because when it comes to housing, it involves education, it involves employment, it involves everything that we do within the community."
A number of cabins sit along the rocky beach of Igloolik outside of town. Kangok said he knows of other people who live in cabins. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

Earlier this summer, a brand new, five-unit complex opened up on one end of town. It was funded in part from a $100 million federal fund allocated for social housing in Nunavut.

That brought the total number of public housing units in Igloolik to 267 with 1,276 people living in them, around 70 per cent of the hamlet.

A growing need

With more than a hundred more households waiting for a unit of their own, Allurut knows it will take a lot of planning to fill the need.

"We need houses right away but we need to come up with a plan that will work with the community and have community involvement," he said.

Meanwhile, people are left waiting as the need grows.
"We have a really high birth rate and the number of houses being built are just not keeping up," says Igloolik Mayor Peter Ivalu. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

"We have a really high birth rate and the number of houses being built are just not keeping up," said the newly elected mayor of Igloolik, Peter Ivalu.

Ivalu, who took office in January, knows first hand the struggles of homelessness. When he moved back to the hamlet in 2009 from Iqaluit, he spent months living in a tent with his spouse.

"It was very difficult. Before moving back here from Iqaluit, we moved around but we were able to have a roof over our heads. But here is very difficult," he said.

"We're really struggling for housing right now. There's a lot of people living in overcrowded housing."

More than 3,000 households in Nunavut are estimated to be homeless and waiting for social housing, according to the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

This is part one of a three-part series examining social housing in one of Nunavut's communities.

Tomorrow, part two examines the toll of overcrowding.