(Elder Olin Rain and his daughter Connie Rain at his home on the Paul First Nation. Brandi Morin/APTN photo)
APTN National News
PAUL FIRST NATION, Alta. – Connie Rain says her father has always been a proud man.
Olin Rain, 73, fathered 10 children and has 52 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was once a traditional dancer, singer and drummer. In recent years, Olin’s health has wavered and he usually stays pretty close to his home on the Paul First Nation.
But his home, built 41 years ago, is falling apart.
There are holes in the walls, when it rains water leaks through the ceiling in his bedroom, a piece of flooring in the bathroom is soon to give way to the basement below. The baseboards had to be removed along with most of his furniture because of an infestation of bed bugs.
The bed bugs have been there for years, said Olin.
The last year in particular has been pretty bad, waking up every other day with itching and bite marks. He’s tried to get rid of them by using pesticides that his son sprays in the house and on the furniture, but they keep coming back.
Olin allowed APTN National News into his home.
“They’re awful,” he said, although, the past few days there’s been little signs of the bugs because they sprayed the house again last week.
But that only killed the live ones, he said, and as soon as the egg batches hatch the cycle will start all over again.
An environmental health officer recently visited the home and recommended the entire house be fumigated. However, that comes at a cost of at least $1,000, and that is money Olin, who lives on a pension, doesn’t have.
His daughter Connie is unemployed, and said if she had the money she would help him. It breaks her heart to see her father living in these kinds of conditions.
“It’s not a good scene,” said Connie. “We need help, now. There is an urgency.”
She said she has been asking for help from the band for a while but hasn’t yet had any response.
“I guess there’s no funds available in that area,” said Connie.
APTN contacted the band and spoke to Russell Bird, a council member.
Bird said he wasn’t aware of Olin’s plight and said the band will help him to cover the costs of fumigation. The band has recently paid to fumigate several other homes and said these types of situations are considered a priority.
Paul First Nation has a mix of Cree and Stoney history located approximately 70km west of Edmonton near the eastern shore of Wabamun Lake. It has a population of over 2,000 with over 1,100 living on reserve.
Connie doesn’t live in the community anymore, however, she said she feels for other people that are going through what her dad is. People living at Paul are living in third world conditions and are in dire need.
“When I watch the news I think ‘ok, they’re sending money over there’. But I don’t see any red flags coming up for the First Nation communities saying there’s elders living with infestations and much needed renovations so they don’t fall through their floor here in Canada,” she said.
Loneliness adds to the affliction, said Connie. With the bed bug infestation no one wants to come visit Olin, his grandchildren don’t come around to laugh and play outside, anymore.
Nevertheless, he’s not too proud or embarrassed to admit that he needs help.
“He’s in need and it’s very humbling to actually bring someone into your home to share this,” said Connie.
As for a new house or renovation request, Olin will remain on the long list of others waiting until the money becomes available.