MPP and MP should take part


On Friday, March 24, members of Places for People and their allies will descend on Head Lake Park to sleep in their vehicles, tents, or even on couches, to raise money for the non-profit. They also hope to have some conversations around the fire about what affordable housing means.

I’m acquainted with the event, having taken part in the inaugural 2019 Sleeping in Cars. Back then, a handful of us parked in the Minden Hills township lot and tried to get some sleep during a late winter-early spring evening.

We had a fire and Eric Casper of North of Seven came to play some tunes. People, including some Minden Hills councillors, wandered by to encourage those who were sleeping out.

The next morning, Marilynne Lesperance and Joanne Barnes from the Minden Community Food Centre, came to the township office with coffee and breakfast. I don’t remember everyone who stuck it out for the night, but P4P’s Fay Martin and Rev. Max Ward were there, as was then Minden Hills mayor Brent Devolin.

Others gathered that night in 2019 in Wilberforce and Haliburton.

While sleeping in one’s car for a single night is hardly equivalent to those actually sleeping in vehicles or tents for protracted periods of time in the Highlands, it did give us some insight, and some empathy.

Since then, there have been different iterations of the event, but this month’s returns to its roots.

Much has changed since 2019. COVID-19 has altered the housing landscape forever, as our population has grown by 14 per cent, and some people have been pushed out of their homes by rising rents or landlords capitalizing on a hot real estate market and selling. We have also seen a proliferation of housing converted to short-term rentals and the cost of living has only exacerbated an already difficult situation for many Haliburton County residents.

The very definition of affordable housing has changed here. It used to be about vulnerable people who could be thrown off course by circumstances. Now, even full-time workers being paid below a living wage are dealing with homelessness issues and using food banks for the first time.

The issue of housing was discussed widely in the last municipal, provincial and federal election. Many pledges were made to tackle it. With that in mind, this time around, more than ever, we challenge MP Jamie Schmale, MPP Laurie Scott and our municipal politicians to sleep out in their vehicles in the Head Lake Park parking lot March 24. If they truly want to hear about the issue and how it is impacting their constituents, they need to gather around that fire and sleep in their vehicles on a cold winter’s night. Otherwise, we can only assume they have been paying lip service to the issue and don’t really care.

In particular, we feel it is time for Scott and Schmale to come to town for something other than a glorified photo opportunity. It isn’t so much that they both make very good money, and have homes in their ridings as well as in Toronto and Ottawa respectively. It’s about walking the walk, even if it is only for one night.