This is something that has been on my mind for a while now and something I just feel like writing about. Almost half of Canadians are only two to three missed paychecks away from being homeless. I am sure this is true for many other countries as well. Something I have experienced myself is wondering where the next rent is going to come from or not getting groceries because you need to put gas in the car to get to work. It’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately because we have been struggling with money a lot.
Today, my mom told me about a story in the Chronicle Herald (Halifax) which really hit home for both of us. A 63-year-old woman, a woman my own parent’s age, suffering from diabetes living in her car in a Walmart Parking lot in Dartmouth Crossing after losing her job and then her apartment due to what she called “three bad blows”. Blows that could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Blows that do happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time but that if you do not have a nest egg of savings to get you through can render you homeless.
The first of which was her mother getting sick and having to move home to Nova Scotia and to Halifax to take care of her. She also ended up taking care of a special needs niece and her brother who needed palliative care while dying from cancer. Having to put her life, her job and everything on hold to take care of loved ones selflessly asking for nothing in return. She found a job at a call center, again something that hits home for me as I have been working in call center’s for most of my life and only recently left to work in a branch of a bank. She worked there for 8 years when her luck ran out.
The second blow came when she had to have three toes removed from complications of diabetes. It does not say what type of diabetes she has and honestly, it does not matter. As Leah writes about in her blog the.insulin.type all types of diabetes matter and all have the potential to cause horrific complications if not controlled, and getting and maintaining control is a constant struggle which even a little cold or infection can have a huge effect on. Anyway, this is what happened to this woman. She ended up having to have three toes removed. After coming back to work from a leave of absence, most likely too soon, but when you need money you need money, she was only able to get part-time as her hours were cut back.
Of course, her bills started piling up and she was falling behind on her rent and she was eventually kicked out. Family helped her as much as they could at their own expense, a brother-in-law allowed her to stay in a house he was selling before the new owner took occupancy but then she was forced to move again. All of this took a toll on her job as she kept having to miss work to move and she was eventually fired. She doesn’t blame the call center at all, as she says in the article she knew the rules and she didn’t comply with them, really through no fault of her own though.
Without a job and without a roof over her head she has resorted to living in her car in front of her brother-in-law’s place at first moving around every few days, after a while, she found out that Walmart allows RVs and campers to park in their parking lot and that is where she currently is. A friend took her in during Hurricane Dorian and her brother-in-law maxed out his own credit card putting her up in hotels every few nights so she could have a good sleep and a bath. An MLA also reached out to the Department of Community Services and they provided her a few days of accommodation in a motel. She is 2 years too early for Old Age Security and only has a small Canada Pension Plan (CPP) amount of $277 a month that she is getting and due to having no permanent address she does not qualify for further assistance from the Department of Community Services.
A GoFundMe campaign was started for her by a friend and co-worker but honestly, unfortunately, it takes time for funds to be raised through GoFundMe, and then once the goal is met and the money is requested it takes time for the funds to reach her. She doesn’t have time, however, as another blow has come, living in her car and not taking her shoes and socks off often, she failed to notice a blister forming on her heal that had gotten infected. Anyone who knows anything about diabetes knows how serious that can be, especially after already having three toes removed on the same foot. She is supposed to wear a special boot while healing but due to circumstances can’t because she would not be able to drive or get around as she is living in her car.
She is falling through the cracks, the weather here right now is getting cold, very cold. It is currently -3°C in Dartmouth and it feels like -8°C and it is just going to get colder. She is in an impossible situation and she is just one of many people and children in the same or similar situations in this country. It’s a big issue and is only going to get bigger. My husband and I are fortunate at the moment that we have family that has stepped in and helped us but sometimes that help can only go so far and even being in a bad position ourselves this haunts me to the core, her story and the stories of people like her.
Her story really hits home for me. Partly because she is a diabetic, partly because she is the same age as my parents which kills me the most and partly because her story shows the human side of it. It shows me that it can happen to anyone, anytime, living anywhere and that there are people even worse off than her, here in Canada and really all over the world. My mom and I have both been really affected by reading her story and have been racking our brains all afternoon on how we can help, how we can make a difference, to the point my mom said she wished she could drive up to Dartmouth and bring her home to stay for the winter to get her off the streets and give her a chance.
While that is probably not possible or feasible, there must be something we can do. Money is tight for both my parents and us, but we just feel like there has to be something we can do. We just have no idea what. She is two and a half hours away. Maybe even just getting her story out there might help. I have no idea. All I know is it is really bugging me.