A house may not be much of a home, but it’s almost always a shelter, one of life’s more fundamental needs.
Christian Rhude is in on the prowl for both, but he’ll settle for the latter. Disabled and restricted to a wheelchair for most of his 31 years, his housing needs are more complicated than those of the average Whistler local. Whereas most people pour over the classifieds in search of an available room, Rhude is on the hunt for an accessible one, something he’s been hard pressed to find since returning from Australia.
“What I’m looking for, first of all, is the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom to all be on the same level,” he says. “Outside the building, I need to be able to get from the accommodation to a bus stop.”
He had something like that before heading to Australia. But it wasn’t perfect. Located in Bayshores, he spent $350 a month on cab fares because he couldn’t wheel through the snow.
Complicating Rhude’s situation further is his dog, which he’s had for five years. Trained in accessible methods, the dog has become a close companion, a partner in both sport and life.
“I am not willing to give him up,” says Rhude. “I admit it puts me at yet another disadvantage, this one self imposed. However, in the past, I have always been able to work out a deal in regards to the pet — carpet cleaning, damage deposit — but you can rarely make a deal on something accessible.”
And so now he lives in Whistler Blackcomb staff housing — without his dog, and only temporarily to boot.
It’s not a money issue. A freelance producer and senior host for Whistler-Blackcomb’s reservations centre, Rhude’s finances aren’t holding him back.
“I’m just on the end process of purchasing a two-bedroom in the Cheakamus Crossing,” he says. “But I still don’t have anywhere to live for the next two years.”
For Gord McKeever, chair of the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA), Rhude’s plight represents yet another angle in the resort municipality’s housing prism.
“It’s like all the housing challenges right now,” he said. “There are no easy answers for everybody, whether it’s seasonal workers or people with mobility challenges. At this point, it’s an opportunistic situation, where if something compatible is available then there’s as much luck as anything there.”