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‘I don’t choose to be homeless,’ Belleville resident says amid housing crisis

WATCH: A Belleville, Ont., couple recently moved into a mobile trailer after months in a tent.

During the summer months, many Ontarians pitch a tent in the wilderness to escape the bustle of the city.

For others, enduring the elements is just a way of life, and in Belleville Ont., there are many residents setting up camp in forested areas due to skyrocketing rents.

“I don’t choose to be homeless. There’s just nowhere to live,” said Cynthia Dinovitzer who recently moved out of her tent and into a mobile trailer with her partner, Karson McIntire.

READ MORE: Peterborough city council passes bylaws to curb tenting at municipal parks

Dinovitzer and McIntire parked their $550 small trailer in the back of a grocery store parking lot last month, to be near a toilet and running water. The couple, who say they both rely on Ontario disability cheques, walked Global News through their daily routine.

It involves bathing their two cats, Garfield and Brownie, with supplies given to them by a local pet store and walking their rescue dog on a small patch of grass behind their trailer.

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“Being here sucks, but having Cynthia and the animals, the days aren’t so bad,” said Mcintire.

Although the conditions are not ideal for two adults and three animals, one resident is trying to help. Deborah Lee-Pike runs the small community volunteer group Not Alone Quinte, a team of Bellevillians who care for the nearly 90 people living on the streets.

“We do community dinners each night, where we feed most of Bellevilles homeless, and we try to do our best to accommodate their needs,” said Lee-Pike.

WATCH: Oppenheimer Park neighbours say tent city situation worsening

Oppenheimer Park neighbours say tent city situation worsening
Oppenheimer Park neighbours say tent city situation worsening

Lee-Pike continued to say that Belleville is currently experiencing a homeless crisis and it’s due to the lack of housing. It’s a statement that the director of Community and Human Services, Erin Rivers, partially agreed with, saying that there is a lack of a homeless shelters in the area, which has added to the difficulty in managing situations.

“This can be a lengthy and challenging process, we are actually seeing a slight shift in the City’s transient population whereby the number of individuals presenting with disabling conditions such as mental health and/or substance abuse issues is growing,” said Rivers.

Rivers, however, is optimistic that the Grace Inn Shelter and a new 40-unit supportive housing complex located in the City of Belleville, both slated to be operational later this year, will help in the fight against homelessness.

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READ MORE: More newcomers and refugees are winding up homeless in Canada: studies

The Mayor of Belleville, Mitch Panciuk, did not comment on the issue.

The number of homeless people in Belleville outnumbers the number of available beds, according to Lee-Pike, a problem that hasn’t slipped the mind of McIntire.

“If we’re still here in the winter we’ll have to come up with something. Our best bet might be to just live in the van with the heater on,” said McIntire.

Until the weather turns and the leaves brown, the couple is trying to enjoy the summer weather, while kicking back on their lawn chairs and sharing a laugh or two.

“Having him [McIntire] here to get through life is the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Dinovitzer before she slowly reached for his hand to hold.
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