Defining the problem

By Jenn Watt

Published Feb. 12 2019

Anyone who has moved up to Haliburton in a hurry will tell you it’s hard to find somewhere to live. When I first took a job as a reporter at the Minden Times in 2007 I scrambled to find a place close to work on a limited budget.

I had heard many times that living in the city was much more expensive than living in the country and I was coming from one of the most expensive cities in the province Toronto where I was working after graduating from university.

It was a difficult transition.

Rental accommodations were few and frequently seasonal meaning I could take the unit from October to May but would need to move out during summer months.

And rental prices were comparable to Toronto. (However whereas in Toronto I would pay $100 a month for a Metropass to ride anywhere in the city to live in the Highlands I had to buy a car and pay monthly insurance well surpassing that amount.)

Without the financial backing of family I would have been hard-pressed to endure any kind of emergency and continue paying rent. And without social networks to access locally would have found it difficult to crash on someone’s couch for a month – one of the types of “hidden homelessness” found in rural places.

As affordable housing advocate Fay Martin points out in this week’s paper many people find themselves in precarious housing situations for a host of reasons.

It could be due to a loss of income after an illness or layoffs; it could be needing the money to move out when a relationship goes south.

Official homeless figures are hard to nail down. The homelessness system resource co-ordinator for the region said there are 13 households known to be experiencing homelessness in Haliburton County which could mean anything from couchsurfing to sleeping outside. Since 2016 57 households in the county have been homeless. Some of those people have moved away and others have found housing.

Addressing the problem needs to be a multi-faceted approach and isn’t only about creating more housing – though that is a good first step.

What Martin describes is a situation more complex; it’s a matter of providing better supports and more financial security in addition to having housing available. Those at risk of homelessness are those living paycheque to paycheque – a reality for many.

Reducing the risk of homelessness is just as much about making people financially secure as it is about providing the physical dwellings.

Keep an eye out for more articles this month addressing issues of homelessness in Haliburton County.

Martin is raising awareness about homelessness in Haliburton County through an information campaign in the media culminating in an overnight sleepover on March 1. Participants will be collecting sleeping in their cars demonstrating for one night what some have to go through when they find themselves without a home.