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.”

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posted July 12, 2010

Community Feedback

  • Catherine

    July 15, 2010 at 12:05 am

    How did Lisa resolve her homelessness ?


  • k

    July 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    yes, i wonder that also…as i was thinking that nova scotia might be a safer place to go. hmm?

  • Julie Genser

    July 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Catherine, I just updated the above with Lisa’s story of how she got safer housing.

    K – What I have been told previously is that Nova Scotia has EI resources not because it is so safe, but because it is toxic and has a lot of people sick with environmental illness. Anywhere there is an environmental health center, it most likely is because there is a big demand for it from the local population…

  • Sheridan Collins

    December 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

    There are places in Novia Scotia that were saturated for decades with dioxins like Agent Orange. Be warned. There are many very sick people there. A few were given $20,000 settlements, but the majority, like the rest of us, are ignored and left to suffer.

  • Vincent G

    November 24, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I spent the first 20 years of my life in Kapuskasing Ontario. Huge amounts of Agent Orange were sprayed in that area when I lived there. Some of my friends got directly sprayed on when they were working as markers to show the planes where to spray. To my recollection, I’ve been chemically sensitive from childhood. As far as I know, no compensation packages have been offered to Kapuskasing area residents. No monetary award however, will ever come close to mitigating a life time of brutal pain and suffering, not to mention social dislocation, isolation and enormous cost and stress of simply finding a safe place to sleep.


    December 22, 2011 at 10:51 am

    sorry to use large print. I am in a rush before xmas .

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