Places for People wants public to try sleeping in cars
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | February 7, 2019|
Over the years, housing advocate Fay Martin has interviewed more than 50 people in Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough - all who have identified as homeless.
There was Liz, in her 60’s, who had lived in a tent for eight months; Susie, in her 20’s, who’d spent time living in a trailer, a car and an RV; John, in his 70’s, who’d crashed at cabins with no utilities. Another man, had lived in a bus with his pregnant, 14-year-old girlfriend for two months. And yet another woman, in her 60’s, stayed in a trailer next to a house that had burned down. Anna Belle, 18, lived in a car with her family’s dogs. It is these types of stories that has led Martin, and Places for People, to launch an initiative called ‘sleeping in cars.’
As part of it, residents of Haliburton, Minden and Wilberforce will be invited to sleep in their cars the night of Friday, March 1 to gain some awareness of what it’s like for homeless people forced to spend one or more nights in vehicles.
“Because sleeping in your vehicle is the ‘choice’ here when you’ve worn out your couch-surfing options. Even in winter’,” Martin said.
It will be an organized event to not only raise awareness but also money. Martin said people would sleep out at public locations with access to washrooms and appropriate security. She added the fundraising aspect would see participants collecting pledge money. There’ll be some programming in the evening at each of the locations to attract public and media attention and to allow people who support the cause, but are not sleeping out, to show their support. They are also planning a type of sharing circle the next morning.
The Highlander asked Martin to connect us with someone who had lived in their car in Haliburton County but she was unable to identify anyone. Nor is it something easily visible to county residents, she said. She was willing to share her research, however.
“It’s really, really difficult to quantify anywhere, and here in particular, because they go into the bush. If you’re going to sleep in your car, you’re not going to sleep in your car on the main street or in a parking lot, you’re going to be hidden away somewhere. And, they are transient,” Martin said.
Jocelyn Blazey is the Homelessness System Resource Coordinator for the City of Kawartha Lakes and County of Haliburton. She told The Highlander that when they did their annual enumeration registry week this past summer, there were a few people who said they’d experienced sleeping outside, whether “sleeping rough” or in their vehicles.
“In more rural communities, just because people aren’t ‘seen’ to be experiencing homelessness doesn’t mean that homelessness doesn’t exist in those communities. It just takes on a more hidden form. As a result, any awareness campaign or event that can continue to remind people that homelessness does exist and it can affect anyone at anytime is a worthwhile effort,” Blazey said.
Martin said there is a stigma attached to people forced to live in cars. “It’s not a population that merits our concern is a feeling among some people,” she said.
To potential event participants, Martin said, “you’re going to choose to do this for one night so that you can imagine what it would be like to not have a choice, to have to do it, and not just one night but a few nights in a row. And what I do want is for people to talk to each other about what they learned from that experience.”
More details will be released as they become available. Sees placesforpeople.ca
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.