/Sleeping in Cars draws attention to dire situation
Earl Johnson and Eric Casper of County Road One sang songs with themes of homelessness at the Sleeping in Cars event held in Minden on March 1, 2019./SUE TIFFIN Staff

Sleeping in Cars draws attention to dire situation

By Stephen Petrick

With COVID-related restrictions easing, it’s now possible to hold big fundraising events – and the need to do so may be more important than ever.

Places for People, a Haliburton-based housing organization, is hosting Sleeping in Cars Nov. 19 to 20. It’s doing so in a much different environment, compared to 2019; the last time the big fundraiser was held in person. Housing prices have skyrocketed and the effect is now being seen in rural areas, where it’s now almost impossible for people with low incomes to find affordable places to rent, said a local organizer.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to find anything anywhere,” said Nataly Mylan, a marketing director for the event. “The situation has become dire … People who were traditionally renting homes are now selling them.”

The Sleeping in Cars event aims to raise funds for a housing project that Places for People is working on with Haliburton County. There’s a long-term plan to build an affordable housing unit on Wallings Road in Dysart. The project, which would include one- and two-bedroom units, is currently in the planning stage.

Participants can register at www.placesforpeople.ca. They then gather pledges for agreeing to spend a cold night sleeping in their car. The thought is that the uncomfortable experience of sleeping in a car will serve as motivation to ensure there’s affordable housing in the community, so no local person will have to re-live that experience daily.

Participants will gather in the parking lot of Haliburton Highlands Brewing, at 1067 Garden Gate Dr., at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19 and festivities will keep people entertained in the evening. A movie will be shown “drive-in style,” prizes will be given out and there will be a fire pit for people to gather around and start conversations, Mylan said.

The event concludes at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, when a light breakfast will be served.

Mylan said people are also welcome to participate in the event virtually. Last year, a similar virtual event raised about $1,000, but in 2019 an in-person event raised about $6,000. Organizers are hoping to raise a similar amount this time.

Mylan also said she hopes the fire pit conversations will lead to discussions about how if affordable housing is lacking, the whole community suffers. She worries that long-term residents of this area are being pushed out. There seems to be an incredible shortage of single-unit apartments for rent, too, she noted.

“I’m hoping that we recognize that, as a community, we’re obligated to make spaces for our community members to stay and live here. We owe it to ourselves to make sure people who have supported us in the past, can be here in the future …. We’re losing their knowledge, their connection to the community.”

Mylan said that, traditionally, Places for People has worked as a support service for tenants who are struggling to find places to live. It helps these tenants, not only find places to live, but by connecting them to education and other support services.

“We give them an environment where they can not only survive, but thrive,” she said.