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Some have no incentive to clean

Rental houses part of cycle of dependence

AHOUSAHT -- Arlene John, 28, has an air of tired resignation as she surveys her garbage-strewn house on the Ahousaht reserve near Tofino, with black mould crawling across ceilings and walls, holes in doors and empty light sockets.

John lives in the four-bedroom house with 13 of her relatives -- her parents, siblings, their partners and children, including two babies and four-year-old twins Lawrence and Peter Thomas, her nephews.

"A couple of them have asthma and it's even bad for me. I have to take medication," said John, looking hopelessly at a kitchen strewn with dirty dishes and spoiled food spilling out of garbage bags. It is too difficult to keep the house clean with so many people, she said dispiritedly.

The extended family relies on the band to do any repairs, even down to replacing light bulbs and fixing holes punched in the walls.

In the bedroom, Lawrence is bouncing on the bed, brushing against mould patches, while he watches two large TVs.

Outside, with sunshine illuminating the spectacular beach and mountain setting, band councillor Curtis Dick is despondent about what he has seen in the house -- the mould, the garbage, the state of disrepair.

"But where do you put stuff when you have three families living in the home? What can you do?" he asked.

Still, everyone has to take responsibility, and the band is starting to run house-maintenance courses to break people from the idea that government is responsible for everything -- right down to basic maintenance, Dick said.

"Lack of jobs, isolation, the buildings, lack of activities are all factors here," Dick said. "To me, personally, I think it's how you feel you want to be. Have you given up?"

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