Mapping homelessness, Canada’s dark side

Want to go to Pension Inlet? What about Low Wageville, Mount Disqualified, Evictoria, Fort Welfare or Unwelcome Bay? Well, a new map of Canada,…

Want to go to Pension Inlet?

What about Low Wageville, Mount Disqualified, Evictoria, Fort Welfare or Unwelcome Bay?

Well, a new map of Canada, launched Friday by the Yukon Status of Women Council, points the way.

From Priceytown, where rents are too high and waiting lists for subsidized housing too long, the Trans-Canada Homelessness Highway leads to Barriersburg, where landlords discriminate against women.

Keep truckin’ to Lockdown Island, where women are jailed for crimes of survival, such as prostitution, welfare fraud and self-defense. Or hitch a lift to Slum City, where the housing is unsafe, overcrowded and substandard.

The placenames are random, but graphically illustrate the difficulties faced by homeless people in the country.

“Housing in the Yukon is deplorable, it’s easy for landlords to evict women and they have no recourse,” said Status of Women president Charlotte Hrenchuk.

“I won’t live in Yukon (affordable) housing — I want to keep my child safe,” said Shari Huculak.

“My friend who lives in one of those downtown apartments just found a bag of crack in the hallway.

“And it is impossible to hold down a job and live there, because everyone is always partying and fighting.

“How are you supposed to raise a four-year-old in those conditions?”

Huculak’s current landlord is also her best friend.

“It is lucky, because I haven’t been able to pay my rent in full for months,” she said.

Women’s homelessness is on the rise in the Yukon, said Hrenchuk.

“Homelessness is not just sleeping rough, homelessness is living in crowded, unsafe conditions — finding yourself having to do things you that you never dreamed of doing in order to find shelter and a roof over your head — this is not acceptable.”

In the Yukon the problem is mostly hidden, only the tip of the iceberg is visible, she said.

“Women in Whitehorse trade sex for places to stay,” said youth outreach worker Joseph Graham.

Sometimes they end up on five or six different couches in the same number of days, he said.

“I’ve heard girls say, ‘I’m going to get pregnant because then I can get housing.’”

The red tape and bureaucracy bounces lots of people around the system, said Graham.

“We need another city on that map — Gaps in Serviceville.”

The bodies of water on the map are named after Canadian women whose deaths are linked directly to homelessness.

“At the end of the day, it is assumed people have a safe place to stay, but this is not the case,” said Natalie Edelson associate director of Kaushee’s Place.

“We need action.”

The lobby of the Elijah Smith Building was lined with women holding signs, each representing one of the towns on the map.

A red maple leaf hung beside the unveiled map.

“This is our proud symbol,” said Hrenchuk.

“It is known all over the world, and it symbolizes safety, it symbolizes a refuge, it symbolizes universal social programs, progressive thinking, equality, a high standard of living, a country that cares about all its residents.

“But what is the reality for thousands and thousands of women,” she asked.

“Living outside, sleeping in places unfit for human habitation — and that happens here, trading sex for a safe place to live, staying in shelters — this is what we have here in Canada and in the Yukon.

MP Larry Bagnell was at the launch fielding questions from several women in the crowd.

A member of the Anti-Poverty Coalition, Bagnell championed Liberal funding for affordable housing and the homeless initiative in the territory.

“I am going to take a map for my office,” he said.

“I applaud women for taking this initiative and these steps to address poverty,” added deputy Premier Elaine Taylor.

This isn’t the end — this is just the beginning, said Hrenchuk.

“This is the first step in raising awareness. To show how women get to that city or place of homelessness — it is a route any of us could take, given the right circumstances,” she said.