From a Hopedale home to a Nain hotel, a family comes face-to-face with Labrador's housing crunch

·7 min read
Rosie Edmunds holds Codi Marie Tuglavina at the Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John's. (Submitted by Rosie Edmunds - image credit)
Rosie Edmunds holds Codi Marie Tuglavina at the Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John's. (Submitted by Rosie Edmunds - image credit)

In mid-December, Rosie Edmund's five-week-old daughter suddenly became very ill and needed to be flown from their hometown of Hopedale to Happy Valley-Goose Bay,

Getting her daughter the help she needed set in motion a face-to-face confrontation between the single mother and Labrador's lack of affordable housing.

Edmunds, 25, accompanied her daughter, Codi Marie Tuglavina, to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, sending her other two children, a four-year-old and a two-year-old, to stay with family in Nain. But when Codi Marie's condition didn't improve, she was flown on to St. John's, where she was diagnosed with meningitis. The disease caused her to have epileptic seizures, and Edmunds began questioning the lack of health-care options in Labrador.

"If it were up to me, nobody would struggle this way, especially with health problems. It shouldn't drive people to have to move away from their hometown to seek further health care and proper health care," Edmunds told CBC News in a recent interview. "I'm getting to that point where I'm like, OK, we got nowhere to live here. What's the point of being here?"

Submitted by Rosie Edmunds
Submitted by Rosie Edmunds

Codi Marie's condition stabilized in January, but has to be under close supervision and a strict regiment of medication to prevent her seizures, so Edmunds decided to move to Nain so her family could help her take care of the infant.

Nain has the same problems with lack of health care that other northern Labrador communities do, Edmunds said, but at least in Nain she has family to fall back in the event of another emergency.

So the family of four moved up the Labrador coast on Jan. 10, giving up their Hopedale home, provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.

That was the last day they had a home of their own.

From transitional shelter to hotel

Edmunds claims that when she was arranging housing through the Nunatsiavut government, she was promised accommodations by March 1. A Nunatsiavut spokesperson, however, would not comment on the situation to CBC News, citing client privacy concerns. Edmunds said she also applied to N.L. Housing for a place but was put on a wait-list with no indication of when something would be available.

Figuring it would be just for a few weeks, Edmunds and her children moved into Nain's Transition House, which serves as temporary housing facility for housing-insecure or homeless women.

But by March 1, the home wasn't ready. Edmunds said the shelter's shared living space and kitchen made it difficult for her to take care of her children.

"I stayed there until I mentally couldn't handle it."

The holdup, Edmunds was told, was because the unit allocated to her was built by the Torngat Regional Housing Association, which is transferring its properties to Nunatsiavut, now that the government has launched its own housing commission, and there are legal details that need to be worked out.

With issues still needing to be worked out, Edmunds and her children moved into the Atsanik Hotel on March 1, which is where they've been since. They were joined at the end of the month by Edmunds's new partner and his own three children, who are similarly without a place to stay after his landlord moved back into the residence he was renting.

It's 2022. We're living in a hotel. We're living in a hotel. I mean, what else should I have to say? Ridiculous. - Source

Edmunds says the family has more privacy at the hotel than they did at the Transition House, but the situation is far from ideal, with now two adults and six children, all under 10 years old, in two rooms with two double-sized beds. Edmunds works out of the hotel as a television producer for the OKâlaKatiget Society while her partner works as a carpenter for the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies. Edmundss's family in Nain doesn't have the capacity to take them in, she said.

"It's 2022. We're living in a hotel. We're living in a hotel. I mean, what else should I have to say? Ridiculous," said Edmunds. With hindsight, she said, she regrets leaving Hopedale before her home was ready to move in.

An email from a Nunatsiavut representative to Edmunds, who provided it to CBC, says the government can't say when the home will be ready.

"The issue is that it was built by Torngat and because they are no longer a legal entity these properties have to be legally transferred to [the Nunatsiavut government]. Until this happens we don't legally own the building so we can't move anyone in. It is in the hands of the lawyers so I honestly don't know how to speed it up," reads the email.

Submitted by Nicole Dicker
Submitted by Nicole Dicker

Nicole Dicker, the executive director of the Transition House in Nain, says there needs to be more support to help her clients find permanent housing.

"It can become frustrating when we do have women wanting to move forward with their lives and to move into their own safe housing," she said. But we're unable to provide it for them. So it can become frustrating and not for yourself, but for them."

Edmunds says Dicker has been very helpful and assisted her in filling out the documentation to find permanent accommodation, but her circumstances have made her contemplate her own family's history.

"My parents and even my grandparents struggled [to find housing] because they told me these stories from how they grew up and how hard it was for them."

She wonders if her children will be in the same situation when they get older.

"I feel like [if] I'm not heard, then, like, 20 years from now, are my children still going to feel this way?"

Submitted by Rosie Edmunds
Submitted by Rosie Edmunds

More housing infrastructure is needed, says former first minister

Tyler Edmunds — in an interview done before Tuesday's Nunatsiavut election, while he was still the government's first minister — says there are no easy solutions to northern Labrador's housing deficit.

Tyler Edmunds — no relation to Rosie — says making it easier for private developers to build their own housing units could provide some relief, but the geographical challenges of the region have historically meant that government-funded social housing has been the primary way to develop housing.

"We have been successful in acquiring some funds under the Rapid Housing Initiative this past year for our seniors and for women and children," said Edmunds, who did not run for re-election.

"The total project costs for that is going to be $11 million with some spending coming from our side. That will lead to 20 units being constructed for those populations within the next year to a year and a half.

"So we're anticipating that by the end of this year, about half of those units will be ready for occupancy. And then going into the next construction season, we'll have the remaining units that will be ready as well."

Submitted by Bert Pomeroy
Submitted by Bert Pomeroy

The costs associated with development, and the transportation hurdles associated with a ferry service that isn't able to operate year-round, makes development without government funding unsustainable, he said.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation has 34 units in Nain, according to spokesperson Jenny Bowring. Eight of them are vacant and two are under renovation.

I feel like [if] I'm not heard, then, like, 20 years from now, are my children still going to feel this way? - Rosie Edmunds

Having some of these units under the ownership of the Nunatsiavut government could help, said Tyler Edmunds, as the Indigenous government looks to build its housing portfolio under the Nunatsiavut Housing Commission.

But simply transferring the units may not solve the problem, as many of the housing units are inhabitable due to inadequate maintenance by the NLHC, according to the former first minister. In late April, The Canadian Press reported that one in five units in northern Labrador is sitting empty, or awaiting repairs.

"I think that there are ways for us to continue that dialogue between what the NLHC means for the community and if there are partnerships that can be made to ensure that, you know, these units are being made ready for the community, ready for occupancy," said Tyler Edmunds.

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