‘I can’t find a place for her’: 82-year-old Collingwood widow struggles to find housing as hot real estate market makes rental units scarce

The boxes of Betty’s belongings are starting to pile up in the back room of her two-bedroom condo apartment in Collingwood that she has rented for the better part of a decade.

Most of the boxes, along with her furniture, are destined to go into storage within the month.

But not her television, she insists.

“I don’t want it going into storage and the mice getting into it,” she said.

At 82, Betty — she asked that her last name not be used — is having to uproot her life and move in with her daughter and grandson.

The widow — her husband died about a decade ago — will be staying on the couch of their Wasaga Beach apartment unit. For how long, she’s not sure.

“I want my own apartment, I’m used to living by myself now,” she said. “I’ll have to stay with my daughter until I do.”

A few months back, her landlord came to her and asked whether she could afford to pay more than the current $1,040 a month. Betty suggested she might be able to afford about $1,400 — she makes a little more than $2,000 monthly from Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan — but then her landlord decided just to take advantage of the area’s hot housing market and sell.

It’s a story Wendy Moore hears too often. The retired Anglican minister is a member of the regional housing task force created by the South Georgian Bay chapter of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness, and is a frequent volunteer at the Wasaga Beach Ministerial Food Bank.

“It is, sadly, related to the crazy house prices, and (landlords) realizing they can get more,” she said.

Betty has spent the last two months in an unsuccessful hunt for a new apartment within her budget.

“I’ve been on the phone for the last two months looking for a place,” said Betty, sitting at her kitchen table, a couple of packages of packing tape at the ready to seal up more boxes.

She added that government agencies have also not been particularly helpful.

Moore said she is working with another woman who has no budget for housing, who ended up living in a tent on the beach.

“I can’t find a place for her,” she said. “I had her on a motel voucher program for a little while, but we can only offer out so much money to support those things.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do with her, (and) there are too many stories like that.”

The task force undertook a survey that garnered more than 400 responses. The task force will use that information for a report that will be presented to area municipalities later this fall.

“I’m anxious to find (recommendations) that work,” Moore said. “It’s a very upsetting situation.”

To top it all off, Betty is also waiting to hear from a Toronto hospital about scheduling for a surgery she needs.

One of her sons — she has seven children — is worried about her moving to the east side of Wasaga Beach, away from the Collingwood hospital and into an area he fears is sketchy.

“I’ve been living in this town all my life,” she said. “I don’t feel like starting all over again. I don’t know what people are going to do in this town.”