Yukon News

Blind man to lose home New Year’s Eve

Jacqueline Ronson Friday December 21, 2012

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

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William Peterson is being evicted from the Riverdale home he once shared with his mother and son at the end of the month. His mother died in October and his son is now in Yellowknife. Peterson is legally blind and is having a hard time finding new housing

This won’t be a happy new year for William Peterson.

In the last three months, he has lost his mother and his son.

On December 31, he will lose his home. Just in time for the coldest month of Yukon’s long winter.

In early October, Peterson fought in court to keep his Riverdale home for himself, his mother and his son.

His mother Mabel was terminally ill with cancer. She died six days after the family received a three-month extension on their eviction notice. That extension gave them until the end of November to find a new place.

Peterson’s son Davis, 21, was also living with them at the time.

Davis was in a snowmobile accident when he was eight, said Peterson.

He smashed the front of his skull, and doctors performed a 7.5-hour surgery on his face, where they removed a lot of dead brain tissue.

Now, he takes medication twice a day to avoid seizures.

When he appeared in court in October, Davis was the only employed member of the household. He worked for Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives, an organization that helps people with disabilities with training and employment.

But he doesn’t work there any more.

When Peterson returned with his son to their hometown in Inuvik to bury his mother, Davis got himself into some trouble.

Now Davis is in Yellowknife, and Peterson does not know when his son will be able to come home.

At age 51, Peterson has his own challenges. He is legally blind and has a Grade 2 education. He lives only on a disability pension of $913 per month. His son will be missed.

“We always got along together,” said Peterson. “He was more or less my eyes when we go shopping and stuff like that.”

When Peterson moved to Whitehorse, his mother was living on the street.

He moved into the property at 16 Tagish Rd. in November 2009, providing a home for both his ill mother and disabled son.

The house is managed by Grey Mountain Housing Society, a subsidized housing organization working in the aboriginal community.

Since then, Peterson has worked to keep his small family together.

But the trouble started in the summer of 2011, when Peterson took his mother to Vancouver for cancer treatment, he said.

“My son, him and his friends were partying (in the house) at the time. They got drunk and couldn’t get along together, I guess, and started fighting. I wasn’t in town when all that happened.”

The RCMP were called to the property at least twice for disturbances, including a stabbing that occurred on June 11, 2011.

The society received three formal complaints against the tenants, including a petition from neighbours calling for their eviction.

The society has been trying to evict the family since March 2012, but they never left because they had nowhere to go.

There have been no recent complaints relating to the property, said Heather Saggers with the housing society in court in October. But the will of the board to continue to house the family has been exhausted, she said.

Peterson has been doing everything he can to find somewhere else to go, he said.

“I looked all over. I’ve got people to help. I don’t got no education, either. I get people to look in the newspaper for me, and there’s nothing.”

He has applied to the Whitehorse Housing Authority for social housing. But he doesn’t know how long he will have to wait.

Peterson returned to court before the Dec. 1 deadline and was a granted a final one-month extension on the eviction order.

Now, there is even more pressure for him to leave, since he is the sole occupant of a four-bedroom house.

The housing society has told him they have 60 people waiting for a home, said Peterson.

But in some ways, being alone makes it easier on him.

“It’s not so bad now,” said Peterson. “It’s just myself now. I was more worried about my mom.”

He doesn’t know what he will do when January comes.

Peterson has six children, including adopted twin girls, all between the ages of 18 and 25.

Besides Davis, they mostly live in Inuvik and Aklavik in the N.W.T. His eldest lives in Mayo.

His daughters want him to come home to Inuvik for Christmas, but he hasn’t decided yet, he said.

When asked if moving back to Inuvik was an option, he replied, “No,” with a quiet laugh.

“I left there for a reason. There’s just too much drinking and booze. There’s just too much of that in Inuvik, and I couldn’t handle it.

“It’s too stressful back home. Even when I went home to bring my mom back home, to bury her, it was pretty stressful.”

He feels safer in Whitehorse, he said, even if it means homelessness.

“It’s unfortunate that I have to move out, and it’s not my fault,” said Peterson. “It’s my kid’s fault and there’s nothing I can do. All I can do is just take the blame and accept that I have to move out and move on.”

He already has most of his stuff packed up, he said.

“I’d just like to warn the other youth that’s staying with their parents, you know, to just respect their parents and their house that they’re staying in and look after it,” said Peterson. “Don’t abuse the home, otherwise they’ll have no home.”

You have to be honest about your past when you’re looking for a new place to live, he said.

“It’s not easy to get a home anymore.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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9 Comments

Robert Dolan wrote:
7:10pm Thursday January 3, 2013

I came to the yukon 1971,lived in a small community and worked all my life,never had to reley on uic or any other assistance.I here all the talk of housing shortages,and how the bands are being mistreated by government;well i watched the band in this community spend over 200,000.oo dollars each on two modular homes by the time they were deliverd and set up.I own a modular home in that community and cant sell my home to the band for 75,000.00.Ihad to leave the Yukon for my health,just turning 60,and I dont have a home outside the Yukon so i have to live with family,and i have no income,its no different in the communities,people want my house but the band refuses to help them perchase it.seems like everything in the Yukon is about Whitehorse.Tell me Ryan Leth what do the people in the communities do if they have to leave the Yukon. Thankyou

InNorth wrote:
12:08am Thursday January 3, 2013

As neighbors, what we saw was that Mr. Peterson was never there. Not just recently, but throughout the time that he had this house. It wasn’t him who was there to call the police when his son and friends were stabbing each other and running through the neighboring yards with bloody knives and it wasn’t him who was there picking his elderly mother up off the street when she had fallen down in winter with her walker. It wasn’t him who was there when the cops were called because of fights spilling out into the street. It wasn’t him who had to worry about his little kids playing while people ran through yards with knives or out screaming and drunk in the street.  He may have qualified for the housing, but he didn’t live there much if at all.

I am sorry for Mr. Peterson’s troubles, but a lone person in a 4 bedroom house doesn’t make sense. When there are many many deserving families waiting for housing assistance, I would rather see a quiet family get a nice home rather than dealing again with 20-something violence and total neglect of a house.

ek wrote:
6:21pm Sunday December 30, 2012

You don’t evict people in the middle of the winter - especially ones with disability.  You may be sentencing them to dye out on the cold.  I have children in their early 20ties and I know how easily they get in trouble especially with all the booze available now days everywhere and in all kinds of flavors. All we parents can do is watch for them till they old enough to understand. The Grey Mountain Housing Society should at least extend his stay till the end of May when winter is mostly over and it is easier to look for another place.

Cindy wrote:
5:42pm Thursday December 27, 2012

Someone has to take this guy in.  He is all alone and legally blind.  Have compassion.  At least give him a temporary home until something comes up.  I pray for him.

L McFayden wrote:
5:01am Wednesday December 26, 2012

I truly hope that the so called neighbors who made the formal complaints & people who signed the petition to have William Peterson evicted never have any family members with alcohol or drug abuse.  There is no hope left when we as a human race lack compassion for one another.       
I will pray that Mr Peterson has a place to lay his head down at night & enough food.

mlehner wrote:
11:15pm Saturday December 22, 2012

@ Mac Papineau: It seems Mr. Peterson and his family had the opportunity to live in subsidized housing. It also seems that there were numerous complaints, as well as criminal acts that happened on the property during his tenancy. I for one have no issue with our tax dollars helping those in need, but I also don’t want our tax dollars wasted one someone who won’t follow the rules.

Billy wrote:
4:05am Saturday December 22, 2012

Mr. Peterson and his family have made a lot of poor choices that have, again, caught up to him.

stan rogers wrote:
2:37am Saturday December 22, 2012

Its Christmas and a new year is coming, give him another chance- in a smaller unit.

Mac Papineau wrote:
1:18am Saturday December 22, 2012

It is said that you can judge a society by the way it cares for the neediest of its members.  . Can any one live on $913.00 a month? In any humane and caring society there would be options for Mr. Peterson so he could live with some dignity. In our neo-conservative brave new world Mr. Peterson will just have to wait until some largesse “trickles down”.  God knows we must first pay for new billion dollar fighter planes and inflated executive salaries before attending to the housing needs of unemployable people.  Perhaps Mr. Leef could find him a job in his office or maybe a mining company could sponsor him.

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