Hopelessly searching for a place to call home

The room at the Roadhouse Inn is small and grungy. There are two mattresses on the floor, one for Tina and her boyfriend and the other for her…

The room at the Roadhouse Inn is small and grungy.

There are two mattresses on the floor, one for Tina and her boyfriend and the other for her 13-year-old son.

“It was hard living in this one room with my little boy,” said Tina (not her real name).

In July, her son ended up at the receiving home.

Tina blames some of her family problems on the lack of affordable housing in Whitehorse.

“We were stuck in this tiny room,” she said.

“He has to go to bed for school and then what do we do? We can’t even watch TV.”

The adolescent started acting out and his mother couldn’t control him.

“If it wasn’t for the housing, things would be so much better,” she said.

Last October, Tina walked out of an abusive relationship.

Since then, the middle-aged woman and her son have been looking for a decent place to live.

“We’ve ended up staying at the Bonanza Inn, the 98, and at the Family Hotel twice,” she said.

At the Bonanza, Tina and her son slept in a room above the bar. When bands were playing on school nights, her son didn’t get enough sleep.

The Roadhouse is the best place she’s found.

Rent is $690 a month, there are laundry facilities, sheets and towels are available and the room has its own bathroom.

“At the Family Hotel a room was $900 a month and they didn’t even give you toilet paper,” she said.

Tina’s Roadhouse room, in the long, low building out back, is better than the one next door, which has a board over its broken window.

The communal kitchen window has also been broken for months, she said.

“But we don’t really need it.”

Social assistance pays part of Tina’s rent.

“Everyone in here is on S.A.,” said another young tenant who lives in the main building.

“There is never anyone at the front desk,” he said.

“But the place is clean.”

Upstairs, an older gentleman sits in his room watching TV.

He’s been at the Roadhouse for 13 months.

Cable and laundry are free, he said.

His only complaints are the knocks he gets on his door in the middle of the night — “people looking to party.”

The Roadhouse is probably the safest place in the city to live, said resident Paul Kailek.

The 52-year-old has been renting a room in the main building for the past five months.

Kailek was renting half a duplex on 8th Avenue.

“There was black mould all over the walls,” he said.

Kailek complained to his landlord.

“He gave me this can of Kilz and told me to spray it over the mould,” he said.

“But that doesn’t take it away — it just covers it up.”

Kailek started having troubles with his lungs.

“As a result, I have to go through a biopsy,” he said.

Eventually, Kailek was forced to leave his apartment to protect his health.

“The issue with homelessness is not so much a lack of homes, it’s the landlords,” he said, sitting on his mattress on the floor.

Kailek’s sister also lives at the Roadhouse.

Sometimes family issues come up that make people destitute, said Kailek.

“It can cost $20,000 for a burial,” he said.

“But when it comes to family, you have to look after these issues.”

The place is always full of single guys and single women, said Roadhouse off-sales manager Ray Parks, who works next door.

“Social assistance pays for the whole thing,” said Parks, who remembers when the Roadhouse first opened in ‘68 or ’69.

“It used to be a nice hotel,” he said.

“It was called the Nomad back then.”

A Roadhouse resident walked into the off-sales.

He asked Parks about Steve’s stuff.

“Is he still in jail?” said Parks.

The pair decided to try and contact Steve’s family to move stuff out of the room.

“These people don’t have anything,” said Parks, after the man left.

“And it’s tough to rent to them because they break things — they’ve never had anything nice.”

Tina used to own a beautiful living room set, she said.

It was left in her last apartment. She took off in a hurry and couldn’t find any way to move it.

When Tina moved into the Roadhouse, there were just two mattresses on the floor and a small coffee table.

Tina’s boyfriend brought in the TV, a microwave and a fridge.

The shelves by the door are lined with canned goods, bread, peanut butter and pickles.

There’s grey paper taped over part of the only window, framed by shabby vertical blinds.

“If we can’t find an apartment we’re going to stay here for the winter,” she said.

And so far, the search has been fruitless.

“There’s lots of places that don’t want kids,” she said.

And most landlords demand first and last months’ rent.

Tina can’t afford that.

“The Landlord-Tenant Act should stop them from being able to ask for first and last,” she said.

“But we have the worst Landlord-Tenant Act in Canada.”

There’s not enough affordable housing, said Tina, mentioning the new condos going up around town.

“Those are nice buildings,” she said.

“But they cost an arm and a leg to get into.”

Tina has held down jobs over the last few months, but is only allowed to earn $150 a week if she wants to stay on social assistance.

And when she is working, social assistance claws back the national child benefit by $145.

So getting a job only works out to a net gain of $5 a week.

Tina used to work at Yukon College as a casual janitor. She made $13.33 an hour.

“The cheques were good money, but it wasn’t enough to raise two kids,” she said.

(Tina’s older daughter no longer lives with her mom.)

Because social assistance claws back any money earned by working, it’s hard to get off it, said Tina.

Social assistance gives her $402 a month, after the partial rent payment.

“That’s not enough to raise a kid on,” she said.

It was late Wednesday afternoon, and Tina had to leave to pick up her son from the receiving home.

He was coming home for the night.

Tina still plans to search for apartments, but doesn’t have much hope.

“If something comes up, I’ll grab it,” she said.

“But I’m tired of moving