Lisa was homeless for ten years
Lisa from Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada was homeless for nearly ten years due to chemical sensitivity. She slept in a friend’s car, on floors, back decks, in a bathtub, and moved a total of 40 times during those difficult years. Lisa’s life and health have been transformed now that she has a safe place to call home.
She recounts how she finally managed to secure safe housing:
In the mid 80’s I worked at a local hospital that developed “sick bulding syndrome”. Hundreds of people got sick there. This was the catalyst for my environmental illness and MCS. Years later, while I still had EI (but had a full life as an artist and writer), I moved into a flat with my son that had a furnace oil leak. The oil leaked under my bedroom. The sicker I got, the more time I spent in my bedroom. I was deathly ill when I had to leave this flat. My son was suffering too and he had to move in with a friend from school. I instantly became homeless and through the years, had to live in other people’s homes. I did not own a car, spent alot of time in a friend’s car. I spent 10 years looking for housing. I have called thousands of places and looked at over a thousand places, at least. I was on a small disability income at the time (welfare) and my budget for shelter was very small. This, coupled with the stringent requirements for safe housing, made it virtually impossible that I would find anything. I was also not able to rent a place that had had recently been inhabited by cats or dogs because of severe pet allergies and this extra problem made it even more difficult.
I rented many places through the years and just could not live in them. This was costly and heart-breaking. This included places that had the smell of left-over scented candle or cigarette smoke, places that turned out to be moldy and places that had pet dander in them. There were many things I could just not tolerate or adjust to.
I knew that the only way to get the housing I needed was to try to get more funding from the government. I approached many politicians during this time, found a lawyer who would do pro bono work on my behalf and continued to do all this while very sick and toting around a tank of oxygen everywhere I went. The lawyer quit and I got turned down dozens of times. I kept at it, the years passed and I found a guy at my local legal aid office that agreed to help me. They were afraid to give me money as this would set a precident and they would have to help others like me. I applied for more funding again and was turned down, then we appealed it, and I won the appeal. This meant, with an increased housing budget, I could find something that was more “stand alone”. (I cannot live in apartment buildings, etc). It took another year after that ruling, but I finally found something that was pet-free, smoke-free that met most of my requirements. I am grateful to have found a place to land.”