Blind man to lose home New Year’s Eve

This won't be a happy new year for William Peterson. In the last three months, he has lost his mother and his son. On December 31, he will lose his home. Just in time for the coldest month of Yukon's long winter.

This won’t be a happy new year for William Peterson.

In the last three months, he has lost his mother and his son.

On December 31, he will lose his home. Just in time for the coldest month of Yukon’s long winter.

In early October, Peterson fought in court to keep his Riverdale home for himself, his mother and his son.

His mother Mabel was terminally ill with cancer. She died six days after the family received a three-month extension on their eviction notice. That extension gave them until the end of November to find a new place.

Peterson’s son Davis, 21, was also living with them at the time.

Davis was in a snowmobile accident when he was eight, said Peterson.

He smashed the front of his skull, and doctors performed a 7.5-hour surgery on his face, where they removed a lot of dead brain tissue.

Now, he takes medication twice a day to avoid seizures.

When he appeared in court in October, Davis was the only employed member of the household. He worked for Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives, an organization that helps people with disabilities with training and employment.

But he doesn’t work there any more.

When Peterson returned with his son to their hometown in Inuvik to bury his mother, Davis got himself into some trouble.

Now Davis is in Yellowknife, and Peterson does not know when his son will be able to come home.

At age 51, Peterson has his own challenges. He is legally blind and has a Grade 2 education. He lives only on a disability pension of $913 per month. His son will be missed.

“We always got along together,” said Peterson. “He was more or less my eyes when we go shopping and stuff like that.”

When Peterson moved to Whitehorse, his mother was living on the street.

He moved into the property at 16 Tagish Rd. in November 2009, providing a home for both his ill mother and disabled son.

The house is managed by Grey Mountain Housing Society, a subsidized housing organization working in the aboriginal community.

Since then, Peterson has worked to keep his small family together.

But the trouble started in the summer of 2011, when Peterson took his mother to Vancouver for cancer treatment, he said.

“My son, him and his friends were partying (in the house) at the time. They got drunk and couldn’t get along together, I guess, and started fighting. I wasn’t in town when all that happened.”

The RCMP were called to the property at least twice for disturbances, including a stabbing that occurred on June 11, 2011.

The society received three formal complaints against the tenants, including a petition from neighbours calling for their eviction.

The society has been trying to evict the family since March 2012, but they never left because they had nowhere to go.

There have been no recent complaints relating to the property, said Heather Saggers with the housing society in court in October. But the will of the board to continue to house the family has been exhausted, she said.

Peterson has been doing everything he can to find somewhere else to go, he said.

“I looked all over. I’ve got people to help. I don’t got no education, either. I get people to look in the newspaper for me, and there’s nothing.”

He has applied to the Whitehorse Housing Authority for social housing. But he doesn’t know how long he will have to wait.

Peterson returned to court before the Dec. 1 deadline and was a granted a final one-month extension on the eviction order.

Now, there is even more pressure for him to leave, since he is the sole occupant of a four-bedroom house.

The housing society has told him they have 60 people waiting for a home, said Peterson.

But in some ways, being alone makes it easier on him.

“It’s not so bad now,” said Peterson. “It’s just myself now. I was more worried about my mom.”

He doesn’t know what he will do when January comes.

Peterson has six children, including adopted twin girls, all between the ages of 18 and 25.

Besides Davis, they mostly live in Inuvik and Aklavik in the N.W.T. His eldest lives in Mayo.

His daughters want him to come home to Inuvik for Christmas, but he hasn’t decided yet, he said.

When asked if moving back to Inuvik was an option, he replied, “No,” with a quiet laugh.

“I left there for a reason. There’s just too much drinking and booze. There’s just too much of that in Inuvik, and I couldn’t handle it.

“It’s too stressful back home. Even when I went home to bring my mom back home, to bury her, it was pretty stressful.”

He feels safer in Whitehorse, he said, even if it means homelessness.

“It’s unfortunate that I have to move out, and it’s not my fault,” said Peterson. “It’s my kid’s fault and there’s nothing I can do. All I can do is just take the blame and accept that I have to move out and move on.”

He already has most of his stuff packed up, he said.

“I’d just like to warn the other youth that’s staying with their parents, you know, to just respect their parents and their house that they’re staying in and look after it,” said Peterson. “Don’t abuse the home, otherwise they’ll have no home.”

You have to be honest about your past when you’re looking for a new place to live, he said.

“It’s not easy to get a home anymore.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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