Christina Innukshuk stands in front of her three-bedroom Nunavut Public Housing unit in Rankin Inlet. She’s one of 10 people living in the home and has been doing everything she can to contend with mould, sewage and maintenance issues. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photoStewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 10, 2022 at 07:56

By Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

She’s been sleeping on her living room couch for six years trying to fit 10 people into her three-bedroom house, but that’s not even the worst of Christina Innukshuk’s problems.

Mould, sewage and maintenance issues have added up to a miserable situation in her public housing unit.

“My condition in my house is very awful,” said the soft-spoken Innukshuk, a single mother who has been living in her three-bedroom public housing unit for the past seven years.

“There’s mould everywhere. There’s mould under the sink in the kitchen, there’s mould in the washroom, bathtub wall. There’s mould in the laundry room, in the crawl space. There was mould in the ceiling.”

Nine other family members share her home.

“I don’t even have my own privacy,” she said, though her priority is her family’s comfort.

Christina Innukshuk is desperate to move her family of 10 to a four-bedroom unit. In the meantime, the single mother has been sleeping on her living room couch for six years. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

The mould problem especially rears its head in spring and summer.

“As soon as the snow starts melting, the three kids have been coughing lately. They’ve been getting sick,” said Innukshuk.

That’s not the only smell affecting her household, as the entrance room’s sewage pipe is leaking. Innukshuk has tried to cover the gaps with a mixture of lard and dryer lint plus plastic wrap, but the smell is still there.

“That smell’s really awful,” she said, adding that she has to throw out clothing and belongings kept in the crawlspace because of the stench.

Plastic wrap covers lard and dryer lint in an attempt by Christina Innukshuk to close a sewage leak in her home. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

A diesel smell also lingers toward the livingroom at times, she said.

Innukshuk said she’s asked for maintenance help many times but hasn’t found the assistance she needs.

“It’s been seven years now I’ve been waiting,” she said about other issues with the porch. “Every time I ask, they’ll say, ‘Oh, things we need haven’t come in yet. They will be coming in next barge.’ But the barge and ships are coming in every year.”

In addition to trying to patch up the sewage leak, Innukshuk has been getting handy trying to remove mould in her bathroom, but she can’t get it all herself.

“Right by the toilet, the floor is moving,” she said. “I heard a crack a few days ago in my living room, in the kitchen area.”

She desperately wants to move to a four-bedroom unit to accommodate her large family. So far, she hasn’t heard much movement on her request to relocate.

‘It’s not worth it’

Innukshuk is currently paying Nunavut Housing Corporation $236 per month for the unit, but she hardly thinks that’s fair considering the condition of it.

“It’s pretty hard,” she said. “And as a single mother, what’s worth paying a rent like that? It’s not worth it, because it’s bad.”

And whether she stays in the three-bedroom unit or not, she wants it to be repaired.

“Few people live in probably even worse than I do,” she said, recognizing she’s not alone with these issues in the community and territory. “If I happen to get out of that house, I’m really hoping Housing will renovate that house properly and get all the mould out.”

Joshua Long, senior communications officer with the Nunavut Housing Corporation, said there were 258 open applications for public housing in Rankin Inlet as of Feb. 14.

“The Nunavut Housing Corporation is committed to ensuring its tenants are appropriately accommodated with enough bedrooms to satisfy their needs through national occupancy standards,” stated Long in an email.

“Those currently in public housing who are living in overcrowded conditions should make their needs known to their local housing organization. Those who are unable to immediately secure housing are placed on a waiting list as soon as their application is received.”

He added that the corporation takes health and mould concerns seriously.

“Public housing tenants are asked to report mould and any other maintenance issues to their Local Housing Organization as soon as they are noticed,” he wrote, adding that the corporation continues to provide training and support for local housing organizations to better enable on-the-ground responses to mould issues.

“The training includes both practical fixes to mould-related problems as well the occupational health and safety requirements needed to safely undertake renovations,” stated Long. “For large, complex remediations, Nunavut Housing Corporation engages engineering services, and where necessary tendering work to private contractors.”

If a tenant is not happy with the level of maintenance they are receiving from their local housing organization, they may bring their concerns to the board or to the district if necessary, he stated.

This item reprinted with permission from Kivalliq News, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut