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Delays leave expectant mom, dad, and four kids shivering

'It’s pretty cold and I’m getting pretty desperate'


Tanya Enook is tired.

Most mothers of four would identify with that. So would any woman expecting to give birth within the next week or so, as Enook is.

But Enook, her four children, ages one to nine, and her common-law spouse Joamie Idlout live in a tent down on Iqaluit's beach. The cold, the passing cars, the landing airplanes, and the occasional gunshot make it hard for her to sleep.

"It's getting pretty cold and I'm getting pretty desperate," Enook says. "I don't want to live in a tent with a newborn baby."

She's been on the Iqaluit Housing Authority's waiting list for two years. She doesn't qualify for the Qimaavik shelter, which takes in abused women. The Salvation Army can't help her, and neither can friends or family, who live in crowded homes.

Enook, 30, used to have a unit in White Row, but she had to give that up when she moved to Cambridge Bay to take a human services course, from which she graduated. One day, she'd like to go to law school.

Meanwhile, the family of six is doing the best they can. Money's tight. They were on income support for a while, and Idlout was working as a security guard, but he said his employer suspended him when he started staying home to take care of the ­family.

Enook remembers a time when she could afford to donate money to Habitat for Humanity, the home-building charity. She used to take runaways into her home.

Clothes hang out to dry on the ropes supporting the tent's structure. They use a small tub to wash up, and steal the odd shower at someone's house when they can.

Inside, the family sleeps side by side on mattresses, and they cook and heat the tent with a Coleman stove. The doctors tell her not to, because of the naptha fumes, but it's getting colder at night. They also cook over an open fire as much as possible.

"We tried putting up cardboard boxes to keep it a little warmer at night" and burn less fuel, Enook said. But the cardboard insulation offers little protection from dogs, storms, and stumbling drunks, and Enook worries about her family's safety.

"There's not much security around here."

Everyone's sick of the tent. The older kids, nine-year old Francis and six-year old Katherine at least get out when they go to school, but they hate coming back, Enook said.

Four-year-old Koonoo gets a kick out of locking one-year-old Martin outside, but relents when mom gently scolds him. For his part, Martin's happy to offer shiny things for a visitor to play with.

Enook said she was recently told by the housing authority that a place would be ready in July. That came and went, and she was later told an apartment needed holes in the walls repaired first. Enook said she was prepared to fix the holes herself if she could move in sooner.

"I'd rather take holes in the walls than live in a tent," she said.

But Deenah Kelly, manager of the Iqaluit Housing Authority said the unit in question is in terrible shape, with holes in the walls and "it smells really bad."

"Many of the places we get back are uninhabitable, so we can't just put somebody into that situation," Kelly said in an interview.

Kelly knows there are more housing units under construction, but says "it's not enough."

"We need more units and we need those who are in units not to destroy them, because a lot of resources that could be used to build new units go into repairing stuff over and over again."

There are about 150 names on the authority's waiting list, with an average wait time of two to three years, Kelly said.

Eligibility for new units is based on a complicated points system that factors in whether an applicant is homeless, how many children they have, and how many bedrooms they need.

Based on those criteria, Kelly said Enook is near the top of the list, and that the family should be able to move into a unit by mid-October. That's after Enook's baby is due, but at least it's before the winter comes.

"At least we have a definite date," Enook said, upon being told the news.

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