Behchoko elders plead for help with frozen pipes and aging homes

Celine Whane has had no running water in her house for more than a month – the pipes are frozen, but when she calls for help, a service man tells her that she is 17th on the list for a repair and that she needs industrial heating to thaw.

“They’re talking about COVID-19 … wash your hands,” Whane said. “How on earth am I going to wash my hands without water?”

Whane lives with her son and grandson. She has lived in her home since 1988 and has tried to keep an eye on the house repairs over the years but fears that her pipes are damaged.

“It is terrible to live [for] Always without running water to tell the truth, “she said.

Whane cannot flush her toilet and doing laundry is a tedious task.

“I can’t flush the bathroom. I used honey buckets,” she said. “If I want to wash clothes, I have to do it by hand. It’s not good.”

To take a shower, she has to go to a neighboring house and pay the utilities, which she thinks is $ 50 per person.

“I have a grandson I love very much who needs to shower … and I have to do the same,” she said. “But we can’t. I can’t spend $ 150 every other day. I can’t afford it.”

Part of their house is built on a musk barrel, which shifts the house. Over the years she had the housing authorities carry out minor repairs such as: B. Repair door handles and windows and clean your water tank.

The administrative burden prevents elders from accessing help

74-year-old Whane crawled under her house to seal cracked pipes with glue, but her age and limited mobility from developing polio as a child made these tasks more difficult. (Chantal Dubuc / CBC)

The last time she applied for housing repair funding, the application was never processed because she was unable to provide the required documentation.

To access the fund, an individual must demonstrate that their household income is below the core income threshold, a maximum income level set by the area’s housing association.

“When you ask for your house to be repaired … ask about your income tax. And if I don’t get income tax, there’s nothing I can do. Why would an elderly pensioner have to get income tax?” Receipt?”

“If I earn too much, I can’t get help. If I don’t earn enough, I can’t get help. It’s like I’m on a swing. You just go back and forth, back and forth.” She said.

Whane, now 74, crawled under her house to seal cracked pipes with glue, but her age and limited range of motion from developing polio as a child made these tasks more difficult.

“I’m tired of it. I cry a lot [inside]. Where are all? Where are everyone when you need help? “She said.” And who am I going to and who am I talking to? “If something is wrong and an elderly person asks for help, they should help. “

Whane knows she is not alone with her housing problems. Just a few streets away from her, another family has similar problems.

Housing problems affect well-being and mental health

Jane Weyallon has been campaigning for her aunt for years and says no one should have to live in apartments with inadequate sanitary facilities. (Chantal Dubuc / CBC)

Rosa Mantla has also had no running water for months because all of her pipes have frozen this winter. But that’s not their only concern.

Her husband has arthritis and early-onset dementia and it has been a struggle to take care of him without water. She is also concerned about the risk of a house fire.

“At night, when we light the fire, the old man puts a lot of wood in the stove … That scares me,” she said.

The house was built decades ago through a housing aid program. It is in poor condition and has mold.

Jane Weyallon is Mantla’s niece and she has stood up for her for years.

Weyallon is concerned about their wellbeing and sanity. She says the house should be condemned and no one should live in these conditions.

Mantla lives with her husband, who suffers from early onset dementia. Taking care of him without running water was a struggle. (Chantal Dubuc / CBC)

Weyallon says her aunt feels helpless and hopeless, but she is sure that she is not alone in her experience.

“There are probably many other people in the same situation who have to fill out the application annually and still get turned down,” she says.

Mantla applied for housing and funds for repairs several times over the years, but those applications were denied because of property taxes owed on the lease.

Mantla has since paid off the debt, but she gave up and didn’t bother trying again.

Seniors programs are available through the area’s housing association, including a retrofit program for seniors looking to age on the spot.

It offers seniors a forgivable loan for up to a year to allow seniors to stay in their homes longer. It’s a maximum of $ 10,000 and can be combined with other programs.

The housing association encourages people to apply annually to keep their homes in good condition.

Last year, the territory’s housing association received 73 repair requests from seniors in Behchokǫ̀. Fifty-nine of these requests were approved, eight withdrawn and six rejected.

NWT Housing Secretary Paulie Chinna says the department is doing everything it can to ensure seniors can stay in their private homes for as long as possible.

Chinna said the government had removed some criteria, such as home insurance and land ownership, that were potential barriers to access to programs.

Weyallon says that’s not enough. She wants to see a housing policy review.

“It would be nice if the government could really increase its workers to settle a lot of outstanding land … or property and housing problems,” she said, “so that they can be eligible for programs … offered by the EU Government.”

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