Northern youth find hope for housing with Home Base in N.W.T.

Secure and affordable housing is hard to find in Yellowknife.

Kaiya Goulet dreams of a day where she won’t have to worry about where she’ll sleep at night.

That’s why the 19-year-old is seeking support from Home Base to make her dream a reality.

The non-profit organization purchased an apartment complex it plans to turn into a one-stop shop for tenants needing onsite supports.

Everything from counselling to education to addictions support and literacy programs will be offered.

“The goal of the complex is to be able to have their own space, but what’s really great about it is the onsite support with two full-time staff,” said Home Base executive director Tammy Roberts.

The point in time survey stated the most common reasons reported for becoming homeless were affordability to obtaining housing with low paying jobs, conflict with a spouse for women, and addictions for men. 

The report also said more than 90 per cent of adults without housing are Indigenous.

Housing issues

Goulet, who is from N’Dilo – the home of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, said she started experiencing housing issues at 16 because of active addiction in her family.

“When they drink they tend to kick me out and it happens quite frequently,” Goulet said. “I always have to resort to going to friends’ couches, another family members, my grandma’s or even my boyfriend’s.”

“I applied for other housing in N’Dilo and it’s $2,200 [a month] for a one-bedroom [apartment].”

That’s why she turned to Home Base in Yellowknife.

The organization intends to retrofit the Yellowknife Apartments building on 53rd Street into eight residential units for youth aged 12 to 24.

Roberts said the organization has committed to a five-year plan and is already looking at constructing a second building on the double lot.

“I’m hoping they [youth experiencing homelessness] can see what we’re doing and maybe come forward so that we can also support them,” she said.

Tammy Roberts is executive director of Home Base in Yellowknife. Photo: Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs/APTN

Roberts, who was head of the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT, said she’s seen many youth fall through the bureaucratic cracks and resort to couch surfing.

Thomas Paradis, 20, moved to Yellowknife from Quebec in 2019, but told APTN News he quickly found himself in trouble when he was caught dealing drugs.

“I come from a middle-class family and I just made one mistake, and wound up here stuck with nowhere else to go because my parents didn’t want me to come back,” he said.

He stayed at Home Base’s emergency shelter while he completed Grade 12 and transitioned into youth supported housing in June 2021.

“To be honest the most important thing to survive up here in the North is to not be alone. To have people you can trust and turn to,” he said.

Like Paradis, Goulet also hopes she can benefit from housing support.

“I know my little brothers and sisters deal with a lot and deal with a toxic household,” she said. “When I get my own place, if they need to come over for a night or two, I would welcome them into my home.”

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