Overcrowded social housing units add to family burdens in Nunavut

After her daughter-in-law was murdered, Celina Irngaut took in her grandchildren, adding to an already overcrowded house. Eight people live in her two-bedroom home in Igloolik.

'If someone can hear us ... we're very crowded,' says Igloolik resident Sidonie Ungalaq

After her daughter-in-law was murdered, Celina Irngaut took in her grandchildren, adding to an already overcrowded house.

"I kept the children for a year until my son could get on his feet again. But by then, I was too exhausted and ended up at the health centre."

Today, Irngaut's two-bedroom home in Igloolik sleeps eight, including her three daughters who share a room with children of their own.

"It's very difficult with all these adult children, living in the same room, having different hours to wake up. One doesn't go to work, the other does. And one goes to school," she said.

"I'm just exhausted having to make peace between my adult children."

A couple years ago, more tragedy struck her family when one of her daughters was involved in a snowmobile accident. She's now prone to seizures.

Two of Irngaut's daughters have been waiting for years to get into their own social housing unit, along with hundreds of other households across Nunavut.

​"I just don't know where to turn anymore." 

Stress adds up

Many living in crowded conditions say between the financial strain of running a household, getting kids to school and adults to work on time becomes a struggle.

"I have a daughter who is willing to train, but with all this happening in the home because of space, they don't have the well-being to see the training through," Irngaut said. 

"Had they lived in their own housing, they'd wake themselves in the morning and go."

"Too much money, I believe, is being put into training funds rather than the problem. They're not putting money into this problem of homelessness."

Down the street, Sidonie Ungalaq lives with a dozen people in her four-bedroom home.

The mayor of Igloolik estimates about a dozen homes are privately owned in town. The rest are either government staff housing or, like Ungalaq's home, public housing. 

Her daughter has been waiting for her own unit. But finding a unit with enough bedrooms for her five boys is not easy, leaving them in her care.

"Sometimes I just want to be alone or I want my privacy and there's always people here," Ungalaq said.

"If someone can hear us ... we're very crowded."

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

PART ONE: Nunavut housing crisis: 'Dire straits' in Igloolik

Tomorrow, Homeless in the Arctic: when there's nowhere else to turn, what can you do?


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