By Chad Ingram
Published Feb. 5, 2019
A planned fundraiser will ask county residents to spend a night
in their vehicles to raise awareness of, and funds to combat,
homelessness in Haliburton County.
Homelessness exists in Haliburton County. It’s a type of
homelessness that doesn’t resemble the typical version one might see on
television, or on the streets of downtown Toronto, with people sleeping
on pieces of cardboard along busy sidewalks.
Rather, the county’s homeless population is part of what is
often referred to as the “hidden homeless,” people with no place of
their own to go, who stay with friends, couch surf, or live out of
“First choice is friends’ houses, and then when that wears out,
they probably go to vehicles of various sorts,” says Fay Martin,
founder of non-profit housing organization Places for People. “Cars are
one, RVs, trailers . . . so, the car is kind of iconic.”
In 2016, Martin conducted research on rural, hidden
homelessness by interviewing 10 people living in the county in such
conditions. One was a young woman in her 20s, whose name was “Susie” for
the purposes of the study, who recalled her experience of finding
herself sleeping in a car after she and her brother had left their
mother’s home to escape an abusive stepfather.
Susie went first to a trailer on her mother’s property, and
then tried couch surfing for a while. However, as Martin points out, the
Children’s Aid Society has restrictions about accommodations that do
not include one’s own room, etc.
From there, Susie and her brother stayed with a friend in Barrie for a year, before returning to the county.
“They put her in a motel, a local motel,” Martin says. “The
issue was she had a dog.” That dog was a comfort to Susie, and sleeping
without the animal was non-negotiable. So, her brother brought his car
to the motel, and he would sleep in the motel room, while Susie slept in
the car with her dog.
“And then, that got de-funded,” Martin says, explaining that
situation ended when social services agency A Place Called Home ceased
some of the services it had provided in Haliburton County.
From the motel, Susie went to live in an RV located on the property of parents of a friend of hers.
“It’s probably a fairly typical story, because young people are
most at risk for sleeping in a car,” Martin says, adding part of this
is because of the accommodation restrictions that are placed on them. We
know anecdotally there’s a huge youth problem here. We don’t have very
Pinning down exact numbers of people facing homelessness in the county is a challenge.
“In terms of numbers of individuals who are experiencing
homelessness in Haliburton County, our By Name List (a real time list of
individuals and families we know to be experiencing homelessness) has
the names of 13 households who are experiencing homelessness,” Jocelyn
Blazey, homelessness system resource co-ordinator for the county and
City of Kawartha Lakes, told the paper in an email.
“This includes those who are couch surfing, staying in
temporary accommodation and a few who have been known to sleep outside.
Since we created our By Name List (BNL) in 2016, however, we have
identified a total of 57 households who have at some point experienced
homelessness in Haliburton County.
“As you can tell from the numbers, there are a significant
number of people who have been homeless in Haliburton County in the last
two years. We have been doing some concerted work over the last year or
so in building our Coordinated Entry Response in an effort to better
identify and support individuals who are homeless.
“Of the 57 individuals identified in the last two years, some
of them have moved out of the area and others have been successful in
finding housing. While the BNL is a list of names, it does provide us
with person-specific information that allows us to better support
individuals, as we recognize that everyone is different, as is their
experience of homelessness.”
The fundraiser Martin is organizing is scheduled to take place
overnight on Friday, March 1. The idea is to have three concurrent
events – one in Haliburton Village, one in Minden, one in Wilberforce –
where residents will gather, partake in some programming that might
include music and bonfires, before hopping into their vehicles with
their bedding for the night.
Martin is hoping to host the events at the public facilities
with public buildings that participants will be able to use for their
washrooms and as warming stations, if required.
“The next day, we’re going to do some kind of reflection circle of some sort,” Martin says.