'It's been getting to be too much': Rankin Inlet family seeks relief from overcrowded home

A family in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is struggling with insufficient housing, despite being on the emergency wait list with the Nunavut Housing Corporation for nearly three years. 

13 family members live in two-bedroom unit due to lack of housing

Taqtu Gibbons stands outside the shack where she stays with her partner and four-year-old son. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

A family in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is struggling with insufficient housing, despite being on the emergency wait list with the Nunavut Housing Corporation for nearly three years. 

In those three years, Taqtu Gibbons and her family have moved through friends' and relatives' apartments about 15 times, she said. 

"I'm constantly looking for a place to stay," Gibbons said in Inuktitut. 

Gibbons and her partner have a 10-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. This summer they were staying in a shack just outside of Rankin Inlet that was about six feet by 10 feet — just enough room for a bed and a table with a camp stove on it. 

But it's getting colder now, and Gibbons and her family are preparing to move into the laundry room of her sister-in-law's place. 

Taqtu Gibbons and her four-year-old son sit in the laundry room of her sister-in-law Emelda Aupilardjuk's two-bedroom home. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Emelda Aupilardjuk has a two-bedroom apartment that has around 13 people living in it now. 

Gibbons's family will return to the shack during the winter, during breaks from work, to give themselves and the rest of the family relief from sharing such a small space. 

Aupilardjuk's family of five lives in the apartment, along with Gibbons family of four, Aupilardjuk's younger sister and her son. 

Occasionally, Aupilardjuk's other sister, Miranda Paniyuk, and her daughter also live in the apartment as does Aupilardjuk's mother and her adopted daughter. 

Health concerns

Aupilardjuk reached out MLAs Lorne Kusugak, Cathy Towtongie and Pat Agnakak with an emailed letter last August looking for help — mainly for her mother, Rita Aupilardjuk. 

Rita Aupilardjuk was set to have her third major brain surgery last summer, after a series of aneurysms since 2010, and Emelda Aupilardjuk wanted her mother to have a quiet place to recover. 

Rita Aupilardjuk lost her house to fire a few years ago and the family says the Nunavut Housing Corporation won't put her back on the housing wait list.

"She was accused of being drunk when her house burned down. She does not drink and all of her 7 children has never seen her have a sip of alcohol our whole lives," Emelda Aupilardjuk wrote in her letter to MLAs. 

Emelda Aupilardjuk's two-bedroom home in Rankin Inlet is currently home to around 13 people. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Paniyuk also wants a quiet space for her mother to recover, Rita Aupilardjuk recently tried sleeping in her car for a break. 

So Paniyuk has been writing emails and making calls. Paniyuk also has a health condition that causes headaches and dizziness she says are aggravated by the overcrowded home. 

"It's been getting to be too much, we need something done about it, it's been long enough that we've waited for housing to deal with this, but it doesn't seem like anything is being done," Paniyuk said.

Paniyuk says the small space also aggravates family tensions.

"There's a lot of vacant units, lots. I like to drive around and see what's empty and what's being worked on. There's quite a few … It gives me no hope. Housing's not doing anything," Paniyuk said. 

The Nunavut Housing Corporation did not respond to CBC's request for comment by press time.

Written by Sara Frizzell, based on reporting by Jordan Konek