Potlotek mother of three says she's desperate to keep her home

·3 min read

POTLOTEK — A housing shortage in Potlotek First Nation led one young mother of three to take matters into her own hands when she moved into a vacant home on Nov. 23. The house was promised to another family, but Amanda Marshall says she was desperate.

“I love my kids and I’m willing to do anything for them," said the 27-year-old.

Marshall has three children ages eight, four and two and says the three-bedroom duplex they were living in was too small for her five-person family.The house is at 8 Estherrich Road. It has a yard, five bedrooms and two baths - all Marshall could hope for. She’s currently taking a business administration program at the Nova Scotia Community College and says she finally has enough space to study. Marshall can send her kids to play in their rooms while she focuses on schoolwork.

“I've never seen them so happy in my life,” says Marshall.

Her son says he is happy to finally have a home.

But she's already received two letters from Potlotek chief and council asking her to exit the premise within 24 hours. Marshall is refusing to leave and thinks the duplex would be fine for the other family.

Chief Wilbert Marshall sees it differently.

“We’re trying to be fair, but she can’t just move into a house in the middle of the night,” he says.

He was travelling when the Cape Breton Post was able to reach him. Marshall is aware the community has a housing shortage but says there are policies in place. He said the duplex is new and was built about four years ago and Amanda Marshall's family is welcome to move back into it. He says the awaiting family is larger than hers but Amanda Marshall disagrees.

The chief says the community is building two more houses and hopes to build more but they face barriers. He says they need more land and are lobbying the federal government for housing funding. He is hopeful the moderate livelihood fishery can help. He is hopeful the fishers can begin to build their own houses.

“It's such a small community and we need to all get along,” said Wilbert Marshall.

The community was offering to build homes for smaller-sized families living in larger homes, but he says it's their choice to take it. Wilbert Marshall says the band tries to stay out of housing disputes because the band lacks an enforcement officer.

Amanda Marshall says at least 18 other families forced their way into homes without repercussions, but Wilbert Marshall disagrees, and he says a housing bylaw has been in place since 2007.

Amanda Marshall thinks she is being targeted by the band but other community members have expressed a desire for her to leave the home.

She says she’ll continue to fight to stay there and plans to read the Indian Act to see what rights she may have to stay in the home.

“I’m scared it's going to be taken away, but the thought of having a home brings so much joy."

Wilbert Marshall says more information will be available Monday, Nov. 30, the date Amanda Marshall says she's been asked to leave the house.

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Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post