POLITICS

Addicted First Nation struggles with housing

01/24/2012 10:10 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT

In Eabametoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, an epidemic of prescription drug abuse is compounding the community's housing problems.

Tears streamed down Rebecca Drake's face as she explained what it's like to live in a three-room house with five kids and her two parents. She said the children's father is caught up in prescription drug abuse that plagues the community. She has no one but her parents to lean on, and no way of escaping the cramped quarters to see her way forward.

“If I asked someone, like a friend, to keep my kids, I'd probably have to pay this person a whole oxy,” she said.

A whole oxycontin pill is worth about $400 in this community, which numbers about 1,200 people. It's estimated about 80 per cent of the adult population here is hooked on prescription pain killers.

Chief Harry Pappah said it's difficult to see Drake cry and hear about the despair that makes up her daily life.

“It just hits home that's the situation we're living in,” Pappah said. “It shouldn't be [this way].”

Drake said her only hope is to find a way to move to Thunder Bay, about 360 kilometres south of Eabametoong.

Since there is no road to the community, she'll need to find the money to pay for six plane tickets for herself and her children.