Hay River woman longs to return to flood-damaged Whispering Willows seniors home

·4 min read
Laura Rose at her sister's home in Peace River, Alta. (Submitted by Laura Rose - image credit)
Laura Rose at her sister's home in Peace River, Alta. (Submitted by Laura Rose - image credit)

When water first started to flow over the banks of the Hay River in May, Laura Rose packed a small suitcase and left her home at the Whispering Willows seniors' complex.

Within a few days, floodwaters engulfed Hay River, forcing an unprecedented evacuation of the second-largest town in the Northwest Territories and causing major damage to homes, roads and infrastructure.

After close to two weeks at a friend's home, Rose, not wanting to be a burden and suspecting repairs might take even longer at her home, packed her things once more and departed for Alberta, to live with her sister in Peace River.

"[My friend's] health was worse than mine. And she's a little bit older than I am. So I didn't want to impose upon her any longer," Rose said, adding her sister offered to pick her up and bring her back down to Alberta.

"She might be regretting it now," she added with a laugh. "It's been a long time."

In fact, it's been just over four months since the flood washed out her home. And lately, Rose has been losing confidence that she'll be be back any time soon.

Every time she's given an expected move-in date, she said, it ends up getting postponed.

"I think it's been pushed back at least three, four times," she said. "Right now, we're currently looking at November-ish sometime … it's kind of a vague number."

Town Hall meeting Thursday

Restoration of the building is planned to be completed in November, Jeanne Yurris, communication advisor with Housing NWT, said in an email. Yurris also said the agency would continue to provide updates on the status to tenants through the Hay River housing authority.

"Initial demolition to remove damaged materials and permit drying is complete," Yurris wrote. "Restoration work is proceeding which includes repair and commissioning of building systems, removal and replacement of flood-damaged fixtures and finishes and interior finishing work."

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Yurris also said the territory is planning a town hall meeting with the tenants and their families this Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the Hay River community hall.

Some residents of Whispering Willows have been staying in local hotels, the email said, while others, like Rose, have found relatives to stay with.

"They're coping as best they can," Rose said, adding from her end, it's not always been easy.

"I just stay with my sister and pretend it's a holiday. But it's gotten to the point where it doesn't feel like a holiday anymore, you want to be home," she said.

"It's my home. It has all my stuff. And it's where I live and exist."

Housed, but not home

Rose has also had to buy extra new clothes and other items, because she didn't bring enough.

She "never dreamed that it's going to last this length of time," she said.

To make matters worse, Rose has been separated from her dog, because her sister's apartment refuses pets. The dog, Tessa, is staying at a nearby kennel.

"I don't get see her that much," Rose said. "I go out twice a week for a little bit to see her. But it's not comfortable because I'm used to having her around. You know, we're buddies."

Submitted by Laura Rose
Submitted by Laura Rose

She said, the territory is providing a roof over the seniors' heads, but thinks it's high-time they move more quickly to get them home.

"They're keeping us all very comfortably housed, by their standards," she said, "but that can only go so far."

"We are all getting at the end of our ropes. We're trying to be patient, old people. But you know, it does wear on us and it wears on our health as well."

Rose wonders whether the territory could have deemed the seniors' home repair an emergency, in an effort to get residents home sooner.

"We try to think OK, the government's doing the best they can for us. But I really honestly question whether that's been completely done," she said.

"It's just crazy sad."