Homeless “Nanna” frustrated with impossible search for accommodation

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“Until I became homeless, I took in my grandchildren for the weekends and my children for Sunday meals,” says a Collingwood woman, who lost her home after the sale of the building and the rent increase of more than 65%.

When Doreen has her own house, she will enjoy a bath. Then she’ll invite her granddaughter over for the weekend and the two will cook, make popcorn, and stay up all night watching movies.

Doreen always made sure “Nanna’s place” was fun. But there has been no Nanna since the beginning of 2020.

When her building was sold in December 2019, Doreen began looking for a new rental, knowing it would be nearly impossible to find something affordable in Collingwood. But years of research proved fruitless. At 56, Doreen has been homeless for two years.

“Until I became homeless, I took in my grandchildren for the weekends and my children for Sunday meals,” said Doreen, whose last name was withheld for reasons of confidentiality. “I miss this family time.”

The mother of five and grandmother of 10 grandchildren has lived in the Collingwood area since 1987. Until December 2019, she had been renting from the same landlord for 10 years. The building she was renting was sold and the rent went from $820/month to $1,375/month. She lost her unit in April 2020 and has since lived with friends and family.

“People have been wonderful,” Doreen said.

She is grateful for the homes that have been opened to her. She knows that a futon is more than many have.

“When I’m with my sister in Barrie, if I see someone sleeping on the street, I put a few toonies in the cup and say to my sister, ‘That could be me, I don’t want to be that,'” a Doreen said, “My sister says she won’t let this happen. But where are their family and friends?”

Doreen may not be out in the cold, but she’s moved to seven different rooms since April 2020. Always places where she can temporarily stay with her friends and family. She is now with her pastor. And while the welcome is warm, Doreen feels like an imposing guest with a long stay.

Doreen’s disability allowance includes $497/month for housing costs. The total check for the month is $1,169. She was placed on long-term disability by her doctor 13 years ago when she came close to a nervous breakdown. Before that, she worked at Tim Hortons or stayed home to raise her children.

She tries to stay in Collingwood where she is close to some of her children and grandchildren, and where she has doctors and counselors whom she sees regularly.

She has a letter from her former landlord of 10 years to attest that her place was clean, that she had no noise complaints and that she kept her rent paid on time.

Families in her church have offered to co-sign a lease to guarantee that if she can’t pay her rent, they will.

What she doesn’t have is a promising lead on an apartment or a room.

“They hear the disability, and that’s it,” Doreen said. “You are denied, they don’t even consider you a person. They just see you as income.

Only if she can even find a place advertised at a price she can afford.

“I’ve tried motel rooms, but it’s $1,300 a month for a motel room in Wasaga Beach,” said Doreen, who checks rental listings almost daily. “A one-bedroom apartment in Stayner costs $1,500. A bachelor is $1,100… It’s frustrating, it’s depressing. It’s sad.”

She is determined and has explored every lead or suggestion she comes across. She, as they say, did everything right.

She emailed the mayor, MLA and MLA. She is on the waiting list for housing in Simcoe County, although at 56 she does not qualify for a seniors’ apartment, even if one is available.

She said she didn’t know where she was on the waiting list, but was told it could be five to seven years before she hit the top of the list for an apartment .

She contacted 211, Out of the Cold, the Women’s Shelter, Community Connection and Empower Simcoe.

She tried to apply for housing subsidies, only to be told they were “exploited.”

While applying for apartments to rent, Doreen received emails from landlords saying there was a bidding war for the unit.

“I can’t be in a bidding war,” Doreen said. “This is crazy. Why would people have a bidding war for housing?”

A stack of printed emails contain the responses (if a response was even sent) to his outreach, and most say the same thing.

“I get told the same thing over and over, I know what they’re going to say,” Doreen said. “They don’t have a solution so they pass it on to someone else.”

She is almost an expert on housing support programs in the area. And for her, they failed.

“It’s definitely somebody’s problem,” Doreen said. “I don’t know if it’s federal, provincial, municipal or community, but when are they going to say enough is enough?

She saw the housing boom make things worse for her children. She saw people complaining about homeless shelters in Barrie and wondered where people are supposed to go, how they are supposed to find anything affordable.

“I’m so embarrassed that I don’t have a home,” she said. “It’s not because I’m a bad tenant. There is nothing affordable and no one will try my luck.

She is determined. And she continues to email, call, and apply to everything she comes across in her usual search.

Doreen’s story is no longer rare in Collingwood and Simcoe County.

Laurie Straughan, support and services manager for Empower Simcoe, said there has been a significant increase in the number of callers in situations similar to Doreen’s at Empower Simcoe Housing Resource Centers over the past few years. last two years.

“The lack of available rental housing and the rising costs of private market rentals have made it nearly impossible for people on ODSP and Ontario Works to secure permanent housing,” Straughan said in an email to CollingwoodToday. “Our routine search for potential housing units informs us that a single room can cost up to $800-$900 per month and a bedroom costs between $1,300-$1,500 per month.”

Anyone trying to rent any type of residential unit in the county faces the same challenges. Straughan said rents are skyrocketing, rental units are falling due to landlords selling properties and units being used for short-term rentals, and there is increased competition for units that become available. .

She added that the portions of housing for disability support and Ontario Works payments are “unreasonably low.”

A report from the Collingwood Affordable Housing Task Force at the end of 2021 indicated that more than 70% of renter households earned less than $60,000 per year, with 20% earning less than $20,000. About 34% of households that own a home in the area earn more than $100,000 in family income.

In July 2021, the median price for a single-family home in Collingwood was $815,500 (up 214% since 2011, 40.5% since last year), for a townhouse condominium at $646,723 (up 188% since 2011, 57.7% since 2011). cent since last year) and for a condominium apartment is $547,900 (up 163% since 2011, 39.2% since last year). And the prices continue to rise.

Average rents have increased by 134% since 1990 (average annual increase of 3%). Rents have grown faster in recent years, averaging more than 5% since 2016.

Collingwood has added just 213 new rental units since 2008 (six percent of all housing completions), including 147 units associated with the Simcoe County Second Street Affordable Housing Development.

Empower Simcoe aims to add affordable housing to the market by partnering with landlords and offering incentives if private landlords offer affordable housing units for people accessing emergency shelters in Simcoe County. The program was launched in November and will run until March 31.

Incentives include three months’ rent paid to the landlord, a housing access worker to connect with a new tenant who comes from a shelter, and one month’s rent for any landlord who agrees to keep a vacant unit until to 30 days for someone in the motel shelter system.

Since Doreen has temporary housing and did not need emergency shelter, the program will not help her.

Doreen said rental rates need to be made more affordable and the work that needs to be done needs to be done by everyone at all levels of government and those in the community.

She also hopes that compassion will prevail over greed.

“I’m not going to give up, maybe there’s that person out there who will say, ‘I can help you,'” she said.

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