Kim Springer and her family never thought they would live in an RV in a gravel parking lot next to a park in East London, Ontario.
Now the Springers—Kim, her husband, and their grandson—use their plight to describe the hardships associated with hidden homelessness and a lack of city support, as well as choices.
They moved into a caravan after facing a huge rent increase on the house they had lived in for many years.
“The city can come tomorrow and say we have to tow it from here. Where are they going to tow it? We have to go with the caravan,” Kim said. We have nowhere to go. »
The trailer is currently installed at McMahen Park. The City of London’s Parks and Recreation Areas Regulations state that unless authorized by the Deputy City Manager, no tents, shelters or caravan parking are allowed to be set up for the overnight stay in parks.
The city’s latest estimates put the number of homeless people at 1,868 in October, double the rate two years ago, when about 966 people were considered homeless in 2020.
While the federal government estimates that 235,000 Canadians are homeless each year, researchers from the Homelessness Numbers Project note that the numbers are much worse because Ottawa’s numbers are based on numbers from frontline agencies.
A City of London spokesperson told CBC News that they are doing what they can to help Springer’s family.
“The Coordinated Informed Response and Coordinated Access teams in the City of London are engaging with the family and exploring all options to support them,” said Craig Cooper, Director of Housing and Settlement Services.
“The city wants to make sure that every person and family experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness receives the right support at the right time.”
Not allowed on campgrounds or trails
The Springers told CBC that they rented the home for 15 years before the new owners raised the rent last summer. At the time, Kim was retiring with a very small pension to cover the cost.
We gathered all our resources and bought our caravan. We just thought we’d go camping until the fall and think about what to do next.”
But the family said the camps would not accept the 31-year-old fifth wheel, saying she was too old and they should leave the mobile home communities.
For help, the Springers turned to a former neighbor who let them park their RV on their driveway. Soon after, the Regulators in the City of London came to tell them they had to leave.
“Since then we have been here [in the parking lot] We live off our generators and propane so we can keep warm.
Since arriving at their last site, the family’s priority on finding a permanent and safe place to stay has not changed. They said they constantly feared eviction and their safety in a public park.
“We’ve been looking at options in Kijiji for over nine months, ever since we got this trailer, and look and look, and it’s not easy,” said Dan Springer, whose mobility scooter has been in storage since the family had to move.
The family is grateful for the help
Local residents noticed a cart in the park and tried to help. The Springers have also tried to drum up support by setting up an online fundraiser.
At the same time, support groups such as London Cares, London InterCommunity Health Center and London Coordinated Access, a city service that connects homeless people to services, have been knocking on the door.
“We are better off than the people who live in tents because they don’t have the facilities we have here,” said Kim, who is grateful for the help.
“There should be a place in every city where people like us can go when times are tough so they can get back on their feet and move on.”
Those struggling to find accommodation are encouraged to contact the City of London at 519-661-HOME (519-661-4663).