Editor’s note: The original copy of this story, which appeared in the Nov. 11 edition of The Highlander, stated the Sleeping in Cars event was to take place on Nov. 21. The event will actually take place on Nov. 19. The Highlander apologizes for this error.
Places for People is bringing back a unique fundraiser designed to both raise money for its proposed housing projects in Haliburton County and shine a light on the growing issue of homelessness in our community.
Last held in 2019, the Sleeping in Cars event is exactly as advertised – participants gather and spend a night slumbering in their vehicles.
“The idea is that the experience will show people how uncomfortable it is to sleep in your car on a cold night,” said Nataly Mylan, one of the event’s organizers. “This is a reality many people in our community face. Homelessness in rural communities is really difficult to see, but it is out there.”
Mylan said there are more people than ever before at risk of homelessness right now in Haliburton County, largely due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major spikes in the value of local real estate haven’t only priced potential homebuyers out of the market, it’s had a trickle-down effect on renters too.
“People who, traditionally, would have been seen as fairly stable and being able to maintain a home are finding that properties they rent are being sold out from underneath them, and there are no other rental properties available. Even the ones that are [available] can be outside of a lot of people’s reach,” Mylan said.
Her chief concern is that many of the community’s elderly residents could soon have no option but to leave Haliburton County if the situation continues to worsen.
“A lot of these people are our grandmothers, our older family members. These are people that have solid roots within the community and are faced with the reality of having to move outside of it to be able to find secure housing. If that happens, not only do they lose, but our community loses too,” Mylan said. “These are the people that volunteer, that show up to events, that are there in our churches and when they start to disappear because they can’t afford to live here, then we’re in real trouble.”
Places for People is doing what it can to bridge the gap. The organization is currently working with Dysart et al and the County of Haliburton on a new development that will bring up to 48 new “affordable” living units to the Highlands. All money raised through this year’s Sleeping in Cars event will go towards that project, to be located on Wallings Road in Haliburton.
The event will take place overnight on Nov. 19 at Haliburton Highlands Brewing, beginning at 7 p.m. Mylan said there will be a doubleheader movie shown, with snacks available. There will also be a campfire, where she hopes participants will gather and discuss the situation surrounding homelessness in Haliburton County.
To help facilitate those talks, Places for People are bringing in people who have been in those situations to share their stories.
The first fundraiser in 2019 raised $6,000, while a virtual event held last year brought in just over $1,000. Mylan said she doesn’t have a total she’s aiming to hit this year, she just wants to see people participating.
“The more the merrier. We’re an outdoor event and kind of self-contained, so no worries there. If we hit 100 people, I’d be super happy,” she said.
For more information or to register, visit placesforpeople.ca