Haliburton’s Sylvia Claridge always looks forward to spending one night every year outside, braving the elements to sleep in her car.

She was one of 48 people who took up temporary residence in the Head Lake Park parking lot March 22 as Places for People hosted its fifth-annual Sleeping in Cars fundraiser. The event was an overwhelming success, said organizer Nataly Mylan, bringing in over $31,000 – more than the previous four years combined.

Claridge and her grandsons, Matthias Malette, 16, and Logan Malette, 19, contributed approximately $1,500. Speaking to her inspiration, Claridge said she’s seen the impacts of the County’s housing crisis firsthand.

“I’ve been doing this event since the very beginning, because I’m so passionate about ending homelessness and bringing more affordable housing options to our area,” Claridge said. “I know some people who didn’t have anywhere to live one summer and so they pitched a tent in our backyard. They lived there for months before they found somewhere. There’s just nothing to rent around here, nothing.”

Logan, who works full-time at Haliburton Chrysler, said he too spent months last year searching for a place of his own he could afford. While he eventually found somewhere, he said his family’s support was the only thing preventing him from being on the streets.

Homelessness is a growing problem in the Highlands. According to Michelle Corley, human services manager of housing at Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation, there are 19 County residents on KLH’s recognized by-name homelessness list, with a further 15 to 19 people known to be homeless, but not yet on the list.

Andria Cowan Molyneaux, owner of ACM Designs, was a first-time participant. She and six staff raised $13,000.

“It’s obvious that housing is an issue right across our country, but when we look in our backyard, it’s heartbreaking to know there are so many people who can’t find a place to live,” Cowan Molyneaux said. “Affordability is one component of this issue, but the fact there’s zero inventory makes this a whole other ballgame.”

She has frequently housed new hires in accommodations above the ACM Designs offices on Dysart Avenue. She also knows of at least one staff member who spent time living from their vehicle.

“That was what inspired me to do this – I decided I wanted to be part of the team trying to find solutions,” Cowan Molyneaux said.

Algonquin Highlands deputy mayor Jennifer Dailloux, who has often spoken of wanting to see her township work to bring more affordable housing to the community, was one of the participants, while Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter and coun. Shirley Johannessen, and Dysart et al deputy mayor Walt McKechnie made appearances.

Mylan said this year’s event was the most successful yet.

“We are thrilled – we surpassed even our own lofty goals… this is proof that affordable housing is on the minds of so many County residents,”

P4P is still accepting donations. To give, email info@placesforpeople.ca.