Due to the housing crisis raging in several regions of Quebec, a couple from Alma, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, is forced to sleep in their car and no longer knows what to do or who to contact for get out of this nightmare.
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"It's the first time I've realized that I don't have a roof over my head," said Vanessa Privé.
On June 15, she and her spouse, Keven Fortin, had to leave their accommodation, which was due to expire 15 days later.
“The owner had rented and had a lease signed for June 16, so on the 15th we left a bit in a rush with the Alma street work team,” explained the woman.
They were then temporarily housed with relatives. Now at the end of their resources and still without accommodation, they have been forced to sleep in their car with their dog since Sunday.
“The organizations, you do business with them, but there are procedures and the procedures are seven days to 15 days. But, during that time, what do I do? I do what I am in the street, ”exclaimed Keven Fortin.
Since then, Vanessa and Keven say they add up the steps, in particular with Loge M'entraide, which referred them to the street worker in Alma. The organization also paid them 2 nights in a lodge in addition to boarding for their dog. However, for the long term, their approaches to the Municipal Housing Office (OMH) proved unsuccessful.
“We had to find a rent in 2 days if possible, otherwise it's temporary accommodation, but there they still separate you. And, when you tell them that you have found one, [the Société d'habitation du Québec (SHQ)] and the OMH, what they told me is that I had to find a rent at $581 heated [and] lighted and that otherwise I was not eligible,” explained Ms. Privé.
In addition to the scarcity of housing and their dog who is often refused by the owners, the couple does not meet all the eligibility criteria of the OMH.
"My taxes aren't done so I'm ineligible too," she added.
“When we start from where I am going in my life to recover, it is because I take steps, I force, I want to get out of it. But we end up like that and it makes you want to go back to the street. They should be less on the criteria and a little more humanitarian because there it is like impossible,” added Mr. Fortin.
Worse than worse
In Lac-Saint-Jean, the vacancy rate is 0.7%. Only 13 dwellings out of 1925 are vacant and they still have to correspond to the scales.
“The minister last week announced that the scales are higher now so if that's the case, she needs to act. It’s no longer badly housed, it’s homeless!” lamented Sonia Côté, coordinator of the Loge M’entraide organization.
This couple is not the only one. In Saguenay, 13 households are still homeless. However, the OMH ensures that they are taken care of.
“I challenge the Minister of Housing. She has been saying it since the beginning of the housing crisis: no household will be on the street. Well there, there is a household on the street so, we must act!”, proclaimed Ms. Côté.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Andrée Laforest did not respond to requests for interviews from TVA Nouvelles. For its part, the SHQ is continuing its efforts to move the file forward more quickly. Let's hope the couple don't have to sleep another night in their car.