Nataly Mylan owns Moonlight Bay Tent and Trailer Park in Wilberforce and has heard some “heartbreaking” housing pleas over the last couple of years.
“Can I just pull into somewhere and pitch a tent? Are you sure you can’t stay open past October?” she shares, while standing in the parking lot at the entrance to Head Lake Park in Haliburton.
Mylan is organizing this year’s Sleeping in Cars event for Places for People, a fundraiser that highlights the need for more affordable housing in the Highlands.
The woman has personal experience with the topic. While she has never been homeless, she has lived rough in her distant past.
“Can I say that I’ve been cold and hungry? Yup. It was a long time ago and it was when I was just starting out. My partner and I had just bought a very small and very underdeveloped business and for the first 10 years, I remember looking through couch cushions for quarters so I could buy groceries. I remember it snowing in the house. I remember my blankets being stuck to the wall. We were so infested with mice that I had to wash the dishes before we ate.”
Mylan said it’s important to get the community to talk about affordable housing, as well as raise money for Places for People Haliburton Highlands.
“I live in Wilberforce. We have a population that could really benefit from a lot more affordable housing, A lot of people are aging out of their homes and have to leave communities. And, with the short-term rental situation, and the real estate market, we’ve just seen that exacerbated one million per cent. Our communities are really suffering. I want those people that have invested over the years to be able to stay and keep their social circles and for our communities to be healthy and prosperous.”
She added when they started Sleeping in Cars in 2019, it was a bunch of people gathering around a campfire “trying to nail down what affordable meant,” before retiring to their vehicles and trying to sleep.
She said that conversation had changed substantially in the past four years, with COVID and the increased cost of living.
It’s no longer a discussion about a minority of people at risk of becoming homeless because of life circumstances. She said it’s become far more reaching as there are people now with full-time jobs at risk of homelessness.
Mylan said she would like to see policymakers gathered around that fire this year, and politicians sleeping in their cars, trucks, on couches, or in tents.
“It (homelessness) was such a huge thing at the last election that I think it’s become more of a political issue. It would be nice to get that political support.”
Sleeping in Cars is March 24, from 7 p.m. until dawn. Pre-registration is required. See placesforpeople.ca for more information.