Pushed toward prostitution with nowhere to go

Becky Kraushaar is penniless and desperate. At the end of the month, Robert Service Campground is closing for the season and the 38-year-old has…

Becky Kraushaar is penniless and desperate.

At the end of the month, Robert Service Campground is closing for the season and the 38-year-old has nowhere to go.

“I’m so broke and down in the hole, I’ve thought of peddling my ass just to get out of the hole,” she said.

Last winter, Kraushaar lived in an apartment downtown, owned by Singh Nirpinder Dhillon and Kaur Daljeet Dhillon

It was a building full of drug addicts and the down-and-out, she said.

Her bathroom ceiling fell into the bathtub because of water damage in the upstairs apartment; the hot water was shut off for two weeks in the winter and the carpets were covering an expanse of black mould.

Kraushaar complained about the loss of hot water and was evicted a couple of months later.

That’s when she moved to the campground.

“This place is a palace compared to the Dhillions’ building,” she said.

Kraushaar moved a truck camper, without the truck, onto her site.

The side window is shattered, covered at night by an old piece of foam and some plywood to keep out the cold.

Beside the smouldering fire pit Kraushaar pointed to several heavy metal plates, used to hold down rail ties. She heats them in the fire every night and then brings them into the camper and sets them on the old propane stove.

“It warms the place up for a good four hours,” she said.

For the last couple of months, Kraushaar’s been looking for somewhere to live. But every place she’s called has been rented already, or is just too expensive.

“I’ve been calling everywhere and nothing’s available,” she said.

“I can’t pay more than $800 a month and I can’t pay a damage or fuel deposit.”

Kraushaar is on social assistance. It pays her monthly campsite fee, $600, and gives her another $600 to live on. Of that, $30 goes to showers and another $100 pays the monthly firewood fee.

Kraushaar could afford a room at the Roadhouse Inn or the Chilkoot Trail Inn.

“But it wouldn’t be good for me,” she said.

“There’s so much drugs and fights and screaming — it scares the crap out of me.”

Struggling with post traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction, Kraushaar is trying to stay away from those environments.

When she was 13, Kraushaar was sexually assaulted by her estranged father the first time she met him.

He spent three months in jail, and Kraushaar was left a damaged little girl.

“I started having trouble with school,” she said. After being shuffled through the foster-care system, she started running away and living on the streets.

“When I was 16 I was raped by four guys, got pregnant and had to get an abortion,” she said, sitting at the picnic table fiddling with a cold cup of tea.

Soon, Kraushaar was hooked on crack.

“I was burying everything with drugs and alcohol,” she said.

“I lost a lot of my life to that, and I’m still struggling with it.”

She came to the Yukon last year to get back in touch with her half sisters, and to get away from the drugs in BC.

“I thought there would be less drugs here,” she said.

“I thought it’d be a cleaner place with lots of outdoorsey people. But there are way more drug-addicted people in town than I thought.”

Crack is huge, she said.

“You see it at bars, you see it on the street and down by the river — and it’s getting worse and worse.

“And part of the problem is there are more and more people on the streets because slumlords are kicking them out and jacking up the rent, because they can, and there’s nowhere for all these people to go.

“So people have nothing to live for.”

Kraushaar motioned to three different campsites across the way.

All of those people are looking for places too, she said.

Martin Sewap had been living at the Family Hotel, also owned by the Dhillions.

He was paying $800 a month for his room, so when summer rolled around, he moved to the campground.

“I didn’t even have cooking facilities there,” he said, wandering over to say hi to his “neighbour.”

Sewap’s been living in Whitehorse off and on for the last 17 years.

“And it’s the worst I’ve seen for housing,” he said.

Although he has a steady job that pays $15 an hour, the 45-year-old just can’t find a decent, clean place to live.

“The big killer is most people want first and last (month’s rent) and I can’t really afford that,” he said.

Sewap has worked in Fort McMurray, where rent is also high.

“But you’re making big money there,” he said. “So at least you could rent a place with another guy and get by.”

In Whitehorse the rent is high, but the economy isn’t booming, he said.

“The wages are low, and it seems like rent basically takes all your money.

“If wages were a little higher, and I was making $25 an hour, I wouldn’t mind paying $900 to $1,000 for a place — then I wouldn’t feel so trapped.”

It’s already the middle of September, he added.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Whitehorse needs more affordable housing, said Kraushaar.

“There’s lots of homeless teenagers — gaggles of them here with nowhere to go,” she added.

“And it seems like kids on the pipe are a lot younger than they used to be. I met two here that were 13 and I was shocked 13 year olds were smoking crack.”

And there needs to be more low-income housing for people on disability, added Kraushaar.

“Because there are lots of people with mental problems who are not so disabled they can’t live alone — they just can’t put up the fight.

“When my post traumatic stress disorder comes up, I feel lost.

“And right now I’m at the end of my rope,” she said.

“And when you get to the end of your rope, if you’re not going to hang yourself, you’ve got to do something …”.

Calls to Jim Kenyon, the minister responsible for Yukon Housing were not returned by press time.