North

Nunavut judge sides with 'desperate' mother who moved for housing

'It would be tragically ironic if the very people most in need of social housing were to lose their access to it because of the dramatic steps they may take to find a place to live while they languish on a waiting list,' wrote Justice Andrew Mahar.

Donna Tatty moved to Churchill for housing, only to find she lost her place on the waitlist at home

Donny Tatty and her two kids have been 'essentially couch-surfing' while they wait for public housing in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. A judge ruled recently that she should be allowed to keep her spot on a lengthy waitlist, even after leaving the community to find a place to live. (submitted by Donna Tatty)

A Nunavut court judge is backing up a "desperate" mother of two young children who moved away from her community rather than languish on a waiting list for public housing, only to find she was no longer eligible when she returned.

"It is a cliché that desperate deeds are done by desperate people," wrote Nunavut Justice Andrew Mahar. "It would be tragically ironic if the very people most in need of social housing were to lose their access to it because of the dramatic steps they may take to find a place to live while they languish on a waiting list."

Donna Tatty first applied for social housing in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, pop. 2,700, more than three years ago. She and her two kids were placed on a waiting list with about 100 others.

In 2013, while attending a parenting workshop in Churchill, Man., she learned it would be quicker to get social housing there. She took up the offer, even though officials at the Rankin Inlet Housing Authority warned her that she would be removed from the list if she moved.

Two months later, she left Churchill to return to Rankin Inlet. Mahar concluded that this was foreseeable, as "she had no friends or extended family there, no job or educational program to go to, and no supports available other than those normally provided by social services and welfare."

Upon her return, she learned that she was no longer eligible for public housing because she hadn't lived in the community for 12 months in a row.

'Essentially couch-surfing'

Justice Mahar found that the housing authority was well within its right to make that decision, and well-intentioned. 

He also found it was "unreasonable" of the board to define Tatty as a non-resident because of a temporary relocation.

"It would have been better if she had clearly indicated that her move was only while she waited for housing in Rankin Inlet, but clearly a temporary move is what it was."

Since her return to Rankin Inlet, Tatty has "essentially been couch-surfing, even spending some time at the women's shelter," the judgement noted.

Mahar also raised the possibility that others could take advantage of housing available in Manitoba, noting that it seems "counterintuitive that a resource like easily available housing in another community could not be utilized in a more systematic way.

"But I leave that to agencies better able to address that sort of thing than the court."

Tatty is now back on the waiting list for housing in Rankin Inlet — a process that could still take years.

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