An open letter to the landlords of Whitehorse

Have you ever slept in your car? Maybe you were on a long road trip and, rather than fall asleep and end up in the ditch you just pulled over and had a power nap.


by Chris Vainio

Have you ever slept in your car? Maybe you were on a long road trip and, rather than fall asleep and end up in the ditch you just pulled over and had a power nap.

I find that if I put the steering wheel up, push the seat back and recline it all the way, it’s not too bad. I’ve got an SUV with seats that fold down. If I clear out the tackle box and rods I can get a double air mattress in and go camping for the long weekends. It’s much drier than a tent.

Actually, if given the choice between spending the weekend at home and sleeping in the back of the truck by the lake, I will always choose one of the territory’s campgrounds. I might be a little stiff going in to work on Monday, but it’s worth it for the fresh air and sunshine.

By mid September it’s starting to get a little chilly. By mid October, camping anywhere other than in a cabin is probably out of the question.

Thankfully, I don’t have to sleep in a car every night. Some people don’t have a choice.

If you’re living in your car, where do you keep your food? Do you fold your laundry on the hood? Where do you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Most of us don’t have to worry about this, but there are several people in the Whitehorse area sleeping in their cars, tents, or just in the bushes.

These are members of our community; sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins and neighbors.

While there are several apartments, condos, and basement suites available for rent in town, there are not very many under $1,000. If you are accessing social assistance for shelter and utility allowances, your budget will be about $1,000. Anything above that comes out of your food allowance.

Among the apartments that actually are in the social assistance price range, some landlords are reluctant to rent to people who are not working. Some have had a bad experience with a previous tenant and are reluctant to take a risk.

There are many reasons why someone may find themselves unemployed or homeless, but regardless of the reason, shelter is a basic human right, just like food. It’s not easy to get back on your feet when you don’t have anywhere to live.

Here are some suggestions for landlords to consider:

If a prospective tenant has barriers to housing such as unemployment or a lack of references, dig a little deeper. Ask what their long term plans are. How do they spend their free time? Ask what community supports they are accessing and if they have any other connections in the community that could provide a character reference.

If a tenant has caused some damage, can you give them a reasonable amount of time to repair it? It may take some time to access funding or ask family for some financial assistance. Can they pay you for repairs in installments?

When your tenant is not following the rules, ask yourself if there is a way to resolve the issue without an eviction. What will take up more of your time: issuing an eviction, cleaning the apartment, repairing damages, dealing with a dispute through the residential tenancies office, and screening potential replacement tenants, or sitting down with the tenant for 15 minutes to reiterate the boundaries and suggest an agency that can offer some support? I don’t expect landlords to act as social workers, I only ask that we keep in mind that we are discussing someone’s home, and for chronically homeless individuals there may be an adjustment period. Can a behavior problem be resolved without involving the RCMP?

In Whitehorse, there are several non-profit agencies with staff members whose role is to help people find homes. If you receive a phone call from one of them, please take the time to consider some of the programs and supports they can offer, and remember that not everyone receiving social assistance is going to be a problem tenant. In fact, statistics from across the country show that when people are housed after being homeless there are measurable drops in involvement with emergency services and substance abuse. Individuals are much more likely to return to employment or access treatment programs.

Of course landlords have to protect their investments and the interests of their other renters. When a tenant has annoyed a neighbor or been too loud late into the evening, try to remember that everyone makes mistakes, and a little compassion and patience can go a long way. To protect yourself, I suggest having a clear and concise rental agreement outlining expectations, which can be referred to in the event of a dispute.

Everyone should have somewhere to call home. A car is not a home. If you are renting to someone, that is what you are providing them: a home.

Chris Vainio is the Housing Navigator at Blood Ties Four Directions and a member of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition Housing Task Force. For more information on how you can help email

Just Posted

Silver rules out HST, layoffs and royalty changes

Yukon’s financial advisory panel has released its final report

City of Whitehorse budgets $30M for infrastructure over four years

‘I think we’re concentrating on the most important things’

Yukon community liaison for MMIWG inquiry fired

Melissa Carlick, the Whitehorse-based community liaison officer for the national Missing and… Continue reading

Yukon man holds no grudge after being attacked by bison

‘The poor guy was only trying to fend off someone who he knew was trying to kill him’

Straight and true: the story of the Yukon colours

Michael Gates | History Hunter Last week, I participated in the 150th… Continue reading

Get ready to tumble: Whitehorse’s Polarettes to flip out at fundraiser

‘There’s a mandatory five-minute break at the end, just so people don’t fall over’

Alaska’s governor goes to China

There are very different rules for resource projects depending on which side of the border you’re on

Yukon survey shows broad support for legal pot

But there’s no consensus on retail and distribution models

Yukon government releases survey on the territory’s liquor laws

Changes could include allowing sale of booze in grocery stores

Get family consent before moving patients to other hospitals: NDP critic

‘Where is the respect and where is the dignity?’

Bill C-17 passes third reading in House of Commons

The bill, which will repeal controversial amendments made to YESAA by Bill S-6, will now go to Senate

White Pass and Yukon Route musical chugs on without director

The cast and crew of Stonecliff are pushing forward without Conrad Boyce, who went on medical leave

Most Read