North·NWT BYELECTION

'People need help': Housing, treatment centre top voter concerns ahead of Monfwi byelection

With the Monfwi byelection set to take place July 27, two Behchokǫ residents describe big problems they want to see addressed. “Nobody ever came to me and said, ‘Look, you know, you need help?’” 

‘I’m looking for a leader that’s going to know my kind of situation,’ says Leo Apples

Leo Apples has struggled to finish renovations at his house while coping with kidney disease. 'I don't know if my leaders seen or heard of what I've been doing. Nobody ever came to me and said, ‘Look, you know, you need help?’' (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The Monfwi byelection takes place July 27. Read our candidate profiles here

Leo Apples has a home in Behchokǫ̀ but he can't live in it. The plumbing doesn't work and the renovations he began years ago are far from being finished. 

"I started renovations on my house just before I got sick," he says. "You know, you don't know what life got planned for you down the road."

Eight years ago Apples was diagnosed with kidney disease. He was born with only one kidney and right now it's functioning at two to three per cent. 

He's been renting an apartment in Yellowknife since the diagnosis so he can get treatment. Three days a week he sits in a chair for four hours hooked up to a dialysis machine at Stanton Hospital. 

"I didn't plan to be sick. My goal was to work and to buy everything myself, and fix it all by myself."

Apples's house in Behchokǫ. 'I didn't plan to be sick. My goal was to work and to buy everything myself, and fix it all by myself.' (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Apples is on disability and most of that money goes to paying rent in Yellowknife. He wants to be in his community and move back into his house with his wife and seven kids but says he can't finish the house without help.

"I don't know if my leaders seen or heard of what I've been doing. Nobody ever came to me and said, 'Look, you know, you need help?'" 

"I need a proper house to go back to. How are you going to live with a bucket and no running water with the sickness I have? I got to wash myself every day. If I don't, my skin gets really itchy because of my kidney disease."

Apples applied for funding four years ago to finish fixing his home but his outstanding debt with the Housing Corp., which dates back to the early 2000s, has made applying more complicated.

The NWT Housing Corp. says that its policy four years ago said applicants with arrears were still eligible for repair programming, but were required to maintain a repayment plan for six months. 

Behchokǫ is the largest community in the Monfwi constituency. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Apples says there are many houses in Behchokǫ̀ that need repair and he's concerned about an elder living in poor conditions.

"She's been living in a little shack with a honey bucket without running water for so many years. And nobody has been looking at them [houses]."

He says leaders need to listen to the people that are struggling and that the territorial government's system is failing them.

"There's lots of money coming in [to the Northwest Territories] government. They just grab everything and just distribute it a little bit here and there. That's not enough. We can't live like that," Apples said.

"You guys want to make some changes? Let's really take a look at this situation here. It's not only within the housing. People need help, they need a treatment centre. Our people have been saying this for years but nothing happens."

Joseph Zoe, who lives in Behchokǫ̀, also says housing and a treatment centre are priorities. He said many in his community feel left out. 

Joseph Zoe also says housing and a local treatment centre are an election priority for him. 'I want change in my community. Lots needs to be done.' (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

"A lot of them need help, they're just walking on the street. In the meantime we hear that nobody cares about them and all that. No, people care. But we need a place where we can heal. Like myself, I want to heal in my community but where can I go?"

He says there needs to be more consultation and that leaders need to engage with people.

"I think they really need to look at the community itself. They really need to walk around and look around the community where people need help. Where people have comments and suggestions." he said. 

"I want change in my community. Lots needs to be done."

When Leo Apples thinks of a leader, he wants someone who can understand his struggles.

"I'm looking for a leader that's going to know my kind of situation." he said.

"All I'm asking is for maybe a help to fix my house so I can move back there and I can take care of myself from there with my family."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chantal Dubuc

Videographer/Editor

Chantal Dubuc has been a videographer/editor for CBC North based in Yellowknife since 2005.

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