Nakieta Goodwin sits on a couch with her children, Logan, 8, from left, Lucas, five weeks, and Tyler, 10, in Whitehorse on Jan. 19, 2018. The family has been living on couches, hotel rooms and hospital beds since losing their Riverdale rental in November. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

No vacancy: Whitehorse family spends five months seeking housing

‘I didn’t think it would be this hard’

Nakieta Goodwin has spent every night of the new year sleeping on a couch.

When she was released from the Whitehorse hospital in December, after giving birth to her third son, Lucas, hospital staff told her the Family Hotel was no place for a preemie.

That’s where Goodwin had been staying before Lucas arrived, six weeks early, due to a placental abruption. He weighed four pounds, 14 ounces.

She and her family — her partner Jordon, and her two older boys, Logan and Tyler, aged eight and 10 — have been bouncing between couches, hotel rooms and hospital beds since they moved out of their three-bedroom Riverdale rental in November.

Goodwin, 26, sits at a downtown coffee shop holding Lucas. He’s still tiny, but tough enough to have been released from the hospital two weeks after his Dec. 11 birth.

Since then, Goodwin and her three sons have been living in Northland Trailer Park with their grandmother. Jordon is staying with his parents in Crestview.

The family has been separated since Goodwin’s former landlord decided to renovate and sell the rental unit where Goodwin had been living for two years.

She says her landlord did everything properly in terms of giving appropriate notice. She isn’t angry or outraged with the landlord or lack of housing options. She just seems tired.

Goodwin’s partner works at EB Games, so the couple doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to what they can afford.

They’ve been looking for five months. Friends and family are looking too. At one point, Goodwin was getting help from her social worker and the housing navigator at Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. A social worker at the hospital also wrote a letter of support for her and Goodwin has applications in with Grey Mountain Housing Society and the Yukon Housing Corporation.

She said the latter had her at the top of its priority list, but she recently found out her November check-in wasn’t recorded, so she has to sort that out.

While Yukon Housing won’t comment on specific cases, spokesperson Sarah Murray said people have to check in monthly to remain on the waiting list. They can do this in person or over the phone.

There are 700 Yukon Housing units in the territory. Of those, 667 are currently filled. There are 18 under repair. Seven sit vacant in communities where there are no wait lists. Another seven sit empty in Whitehorse, waiting for confirmed tenants to move in.

One, in Porter Creek, is out of service. That house was vacant for much of 2017 due to the presence of hazardous materials. Yukon Housing currently has a tender out for demolition of the property. Murray says it’s not cost-effective to make the necessary repairs.

As of Dec. 31, 2017, the territorial waitlist for these units was 226.

Yukon Housing can’t give anyone on the waitlist a timeline.

“That’s not a good question to answer,” says Eva Wieckowski, director of housing operations at Yukon Housing. It would give people an expectation, and she says things can change in the meantime.

Wieckowski says the organization allocates housing based on need. That need is calculated through a point system that considers income, potential abuse, homelessness, and social and health issues.

“The waitlists are really complex and they do change on a month to month basis,” she says. “I certainly understand that people on the waitlist find it a long wait depending on where they are on the wait list. It’s hard to house everybody but we certainly do our best.”

People can move up and down on the list, depending on how their situations change. Other things can change as well.

Goodwin was being considered for a two-bedroom, but once she entered her third trimester with Lucas, the family was bumped to the three-bedroom waitlist.

Wieckowski says this follows the national occupancy standards set by the Canada mortgage and housing corporation.

The standards require one bedroom for each cohabiting adult couple, each lone parent, each household member over 18, each same-sex pair of children under 18, and each additional boy or girl in the family, unless there are two opposite-sex children under five years of age, in which case they are expected to share a bedroom.

Right now, Goodwin misses small things. She lists them: Being together, her things (she’s paying $155 a month to keep them in storage), her own space, cooking dinner, a good night’s sleep (the couch exacerbates back problems), and being able to go places on her own. Jordon uses the car for work, so she has to wait for his day off if she wants to leave Northland for anything.

She’s grateful for the space, but she’s wary of overstaying her welcome. She also wants some stability in her boys’ lives.

Tyler rolls with the changes, but Goodwin says Logan has ADHD. The interruptions in his routine in recent months have meant he’s acting out, not listening, misbehaving.

She has a line on a place that’s currently posted online, but doesn’t know how that’s going to turn out. It’s the first place that’s come up in a while.

“There’s nothing,” she says. “And the places that are available, most of them are over $1,800 a month for a three-bedroom … there’s just very few options for places that we can afford.”

“I didn’t think it would be this hard.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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