Across the spectrum, there are calls for more housing stock, so more can make their home in the City of Kenora, if not Kenora District.

For retired hockey player Joe Murphy, the issue's especially urgent, as he's without a roof over his head. 

"I've de-escalated and lost everything. Sometimes, when you don't have a lot, it's easier," he said, noting he doesn't have a mailing address or even an email account.murphyjoehhofbluesJoe Murphy paid a hefty price for his days in the NHL. (Courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame)

"My address is Kenora," he added, before heading out into the midday sun.

It's a long way from the heady days, when he was the top pick of the draft in '86, or a Stanley Cup winner in '90. It's now been 17 years since his last NHL game, and it's definitely getting cold out there, in terms of his future prospects.

Murphy's been catching odd jobs as a landscaper, he's been sleeping in a tent in a farmer's field, while hoping to find an apartment that's affordable. This could prove to be a tall order.

Market rents for single-room occupancy can easily be $800 a month. With utilities in winter pushing the total housing bill into the $1,000 a month range.

A shared accommodation may be more affordable, if one can be found, but this may not be an easy matter, for somebody dealing with mental health issues.

"Have you ever seen a banana?" he asked, during last week's interview. "As it's off the tree limb and it gets bruising? I think I've got definite bruising."

Murphy recalled how a skull fracture slowed down his game and robbed him of energy. He also talked about seeing fireflies, after taking or giving a hit in the last years of his career.

These symptoms coincided with some of the more eccentric stories, which emerged from press clippings. They included arguing with the Rangers in New York about a lost skate, or a profanity-laden tirade with the late Pat Burns in Boston.

Since retirement, he's been banned from municipal facilities in New Tecumseth, where he tried coaching a roster of Russian imports with the Alliston Coyotes to a title in the Greater Metro Toronto Hockey League.

Diane Pelletier's part of the housing advocacy group Making Kenora Home. She's also a director with the Kenora Association for Community Living. From her point of view, housing's a key ingredient, regardless of your background.

"In order to succeed living in the community, you really need a roof over your head as a first step," she says.

Not only is the type of affordable, supportive social housing impossible to find these days, Pelletier adds she's seen prospective new staff refuse a job posting, because they can't find a place to live.

"It's not only for people who are vulnerable. I would say the housing stock is zero for everyone," Pelletier noted.

The situation is even more acute in Sioux Lookout, where Mayor Doug Lawrance said before last month's housing summit there were 170 job vacancies in his community, but only 13 places to live. Recent developments -- such as Wataynikaneyap Power, the Ring of Fire and all-weather access roads -- are expected to create 7,000 jobs, adding more stress on the demand for accommodation. 

Earlier this year, the federal government announced a 10-year, $40 billion housing strategy. This was followed by an agreement with the province to maintain 131,000 new social housing units.

In the spring, the services board said they had plans to establish 150 supportive housing units in the district this year, with 60 to 80 of those housing units being brand new builds. However, staff at the district services board noted that for every family they place in a home, there are between 20 to 27 families added to the housing waiting list.

There are also private developers looking to take advantage of opportunities in a recovering economy. Just a few weeks ago, Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield was looking forward to 'hundreds' of new units being built in his city.

However, at last week's committee of the whole, he was not impressed with the pace of approvals for permit applications, and he didn't hide his frustration, as he threatened to do away with the city's planning advisory committee.

After hearing about how lichen on trees associated with an island development became an obstacle, the mayor said committee members and city staff needed to figure out ways how to help get development moving, rather than find ways to stall a project.

"If we're open for business, then we have to change that attitude and we have to change it fast," he said, noting there were lots of interested parties.

In the meantime, Murphy, and some of those aspiring to look after him, will have to wait a bit longer. The advocacy group Making Kenora Home was formed, after a fire at the Adam's Block downtown. That's now 12 years ago in 2006.

For more information:

Retired NHLer battles concussions

Sioux Lookout hosting housing summit

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