First Nation family lives in the house warmed only by oven and space heaters

First Nation family lives in the house warmed only by oven and space heaters

More than 60% of Sandy Bay First Nation houses are not suitable for living there.

Sandy Bay First Nation woman explained that there are only two space heaters to warm the house where seventeen people live. However, when she turns on both, the house can be left without electricity.

Charlene Houle’s house was officially declared uninhabitable and condemned. The woman asked First Nation to build a house for her family eighteen years ago. Now, she is still on the waiting list.

Seventeen people are forced to live in two rooms in order to somehow warm up. Eight of them are children.

"It hurts me," she said. "They just have to cuddle in that one room. It's warmer in there."

The woman moved to this house about 20 years ago, and even then it was in poor condition: there were cracks in the walls and rats lived in the basement. Due to the distance between the door and the wall, in winter even snow got into the house.

Despite numerous requests for a new house, the life of this family has not become better.

"I'm doing this for my kids. It doesn't bother me, but my kids are more important," Charlene said.

The only thing Houle managed to achieve was a repairman, but he did not fix the problems in the house.

Lance Roulette, the chief of Sandy Bay, explained that he is trying to do everything he can.

"A lot of the times we don't have the resources, but we do provide what we can. We have some homes that are older than I am that are in terrific shape. And we have some newer homes that are in terrible shape," the man said.

He also said that this is not the only family that is waiting for a new house, because more than 60% of houses are not suitable for living there.

"I think every First Nation needs more funding.… It all boils down to basically funding, but more so how the individual maintains their unit," Roulette said. "Clearly we have issues surrounding maintenance, and we have to educate ourselves and become more proactive in maintaining our homes as well."

In 2016, the federal government made a good investment, but it was not enough to help everyone in need of new homes.

Roulette added that in 2019 he is going to build nine more houses to help people from his community. Charlene Houle knows that she is not alone in this challenging situation. However, this does not comfort her much.

"They always say I'm on the list," she said. "It's hard. Very hard." 

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