People pitch tent to protest housing problem

Helen Hollywood is tired of looking for affordable housing in Whitehorse, so she set up a tent on the lawn of the Yukon legislature in protest, Wednesday night. After spending the last three years living in hotels, couch surfing and camping out, she's fed up.

Helen Hollywood is tired of looking for affordable housing in Whitehorse, so she set up a tent on the lawn of the Yukon legislature in protest, Wednesday night.

After spending the last three years living in hotels, couch surfing and camping out, she’s fed up.

“I’ve come to the point where enough is enough,” she said.

Hollywood and her friend Linda Hewins-Khosravi plan to camp out on the lawn until the government takes action on housing.

They have the blessing of the territorial opposition parties.

New Democrats and Liberals pledged their support.

The government has turned a blind eye to the housing crisis, said New Democrat Steve Cardiff.

“They’ve just ignored it,” he said, noting the government has been sitting on more than $17 million in money earmarked for social housing for years.

“It’s disgusting, is what it is,” he said.

The Liberals were just as blunt.

“It’s nothing short of a callous lack of compassion on the part of our government,” said Liberal Darius Elias. “These guys got to go.”

It wasn’t the only protest at the legislature yesterday.

Norcope Enterprises was also protesting a Yukon government contracting decision.

While Hollywood had pitched a tent on the lawn, Norcope had several pieces of heavy equipment parked around the building.

Norcope’s protest helped inspire Hollywood’s own civil disobedience.

“That’s what got me motivated,” said Hollywood. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, the government is ripping you off.”

It’s sad that people have to take to the streets to be heard by the government, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

“Is that what it’s come to?” he asked. “Things only get done when people come out and picket.”

Hollywood came to the Yukon from Edmonton in the late ‘70s to escape the city.

“I was sick of shopping and all that,” she said. “I wanted to come and walk the land.”

Her housing trouble started three years ago.

That was the first time that she had to live in a hotel.

Not only is it expensive, but there is a complete lack of privacy, said Hollywood.

“They’ll take your $1,000, but you can’t do this and that. You can’t even have any visitors.”

Once Hollywood was kicked out for having her nephew and niece stop by to visit, she said.

In the summer, hotels kick out long-term tenants for tourists.

“Tourists come first here,” said Hollywood.

She had a campsite at the Robert Service Campground, but was kicked out for plugging a microwave and a coffee maker into the bathroom wall sockets.

“My camping skills suck,” she said.

Hollywood wants an apartment, but after a string of rejections has given up.

She wants the Landlord and Tenant Act fixed.

That’s something the business community also wants.

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying to have the legislation updated for years, something they say the government has been putting off.

Revamping the law would help owners and renters, said chamber president Rick Karp.

“It’s a desperate situation we have right now,” he said,” People are living in circumstances that aren’t the best.”

Hollywood agrees.

“I was up in Granger in a basement with no heat,” she said. “You can’t bitch about it because you’ll get kicked out.”

A report on the Landlord Tenant Act was presented last year, but is still under review.

How long that review will take isn’t known, said Ruth Koening, the acting director of consumer services.

There is legislation in place to protect landlords and tenants, and the department works to help both parties mediate disputes, said Koening.

“We’re very busy,” she said.

But Hollywood isn’t satisfied with the legislation.

“The Landlord Tenant Act sucks,” she said.

And landlords can choose to be picky in this market, said Hollywood.

Given the crisis, Hollywood can’t understand why the government is tearing down buildings, like the old nurse’s residence.

“They spend way too much on destruction,” she said.

Until she gets some answers, Hollywood plans on staying put.

“It’s a great spot,” she said, gesturing to the trees and the river beyond.

“And it’s free.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read