Sleeping in cars
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Feb. 7, 2019|
I’ve slept in vehicles.
In my younger days, I occasionally opted for car camping rather than having to pay for a motel room while travelling. And, during one nine-month stint exploring Australia, a van was home. But, of course, it was warm there and I had a comfortable cot, sleeping bag and pillow. Most importantly, my bed for the night was by choice - not because I was flat broke and had nowhere else to go.
Fay Martin of Places for People is making her rounds of the local media to promote an initiative known as ‘sleeping in cars.’ The plan is for volunteers to sleep in their vehicles the night of March 1 to promote awareness of, and raise money, for homelessness.
Martin hopes to have people sleep out in Haliburton, Minden and Wilberforce, likely in the parking lot of public buildings, so they can use the washrooms and feel secure. She is planning entertainment for the pre-sleep out, even a fire, and a debrief the morning after.
We asked her if it wasn’t a bit glib to play camp out as though it would give someone a true experience of being homeless. She conceded it’s a bit like the Walk a Mile in My Moccasins or Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign. The latter sees men, women and families walk in stilettos to raise awareness in their communities about the need to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. It’s been staged at the local high school for a few years. The former draws attention to indigenous issues.
Martin hopes the participants are uncomfortable enough overnight that they will reflect on what it would be like to have to crawl back into that vehicle the next night, or the night after that - to give some insight into what homelessness feels like. She stresses that volunteers get to choose to do this. Some people don’t have a choice. Perhaps finances have slapped them down. Perhaps they are fleeing an abusive relationship. Perhaps they have mental health issues. Maybe they just love their dog or cat but have to relocate on a low income and would rather stay with the pet in a car since some shelters and motels don’t accept animals.
I’ve never seen anyone sleeping in their car in Haliburton County. If anyone has, we would love to chat with them and can protect their anonymity. We suspect people are crashing at friends and relatives. We’re pretty sure some people are using non-winterized cabins. We worry they are in places that do not have proper fire code requirements.
The idea comes at a time when Places for People and the Minden Hills housing task force are discussing the future of housing in our county and how best to move forward. So, we would encourage anyone who is interested in this initiative to get in touch with Places for People to find out more. One night in a cold car may very well change your attitude about homeless people and make us all a little more empathetic towards the cause.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.