December 3 is Roof Over Your Head Day, a day to highlight that too many people don’t have a roof (or walls or windows…) to call their own. I’m blessed to have never experienced anything close homelessness.
But there are 35,000 Canadians sleeping on the streets or in shelters on any given night and at least 235,000 Canadians homeless in any given year. That begs the question – what can I do?
It also got me thinking about life on a boat and is alternative living a possible solution?
Why do we NEED a Traditional Home?
When we decided to move onto a boat, many well-meaning friends (and even strangers) shared their concerns. The biggest one being, we could never go back to home ownership, especially in Vancouver, its suburbs or other southern B.C. communities.
There were also concerns on how we could possibly live in such a small space with most of our “stuff” donated or sold.
To me, that highlights part of our housing problem today.
Why do we need all that stuff and space?
The average size of a home in the 1950s was just over 1,000 square feet. Today it’s over 2,500 square feet. And the number of people living in those homes has decreased. Add to that, storage locker businesses are booming. What do we own that requires all that space?
When handsome hubby and I decided to move on a boat, I did wonder if we would have enough space. Both for us and and our stuff.
For a month or so, I tracked where we spent our time when we were home (in a 900 square foot condo). Turns out, we like being in the same space together. If he was in the den, I usually joined him. If I was in the living room, he usually joined me. The only time he purposely left me alone was during Downton Abbey.
As far as stuff went, I knew we had more than we needed. Some was nice to have like the microwave and dishwasher. Other stuff was just not necessary like the lemon squeezer and “company” dishes. There were still boxes I hadn’t unpacked in three years that were comfortably stored in the closet but definitely not needed.
In the 3+ years living on a boat, I’ve missed none of it. I say this truthfully. I’ve missed nothing we parted ways with and we still enjoy sharing space together.
Where did the entry level homes go?
When we sold the condo, we sold it to a young couple looking for their first place together. They had been living with his parents to save the money for the down payment. Our building was an older one with fewer amenities and a less stylish design making it “cheaper” than most. But it’s still a stretch to think that the price point made it an entry level home.
Because it’s older, the strata (HOA, condo) fees will continue to rise and special assessments will be needed. I think about this young couple now and then and hope they are okay – I know their mortgage payments and strata fees are significant.
Alternative living means you are a weirdo who can’t make it in the real world?
At the same time, communities make it difficult for alternative living. Whether that’s tiny homes, RVs or boats, there seems to be a resistance to non-traditional homing solutions.
I recognize there are some individuals living alternatively who give the rest of us a bad name. There is no excuse for leaving garbage everywhere or letting your boat sink to a level of disrepair that makes it a danger to the marine ecosystem and other boats.
But for the most part, the individuals I know who live on boats or are looking to go tiny on land are responsible individuals, couples and families who don’t want (or need) a large house in a suburb of other large houses. We want a simpler life and to live life instead of living to pay the mortgage.
But, tiny homes are banned, even on private land. Marinas continue to restrict the number of liveaboard boats. RVs are ticketed and mobile home parks are sold to make room for yet another subdivision of large homes.
Why can’t we all get along? It’s time to stop expecting everyone wants the same thing. We’re not weird for leaving the traditional housing plan. And maybe, just maybe, if we embraced alternative living, we could help more people put a roof over their heads.
How to help today
Just like this problem didn’t happen overnight, neither will the solutions, sadly. In the meantime, I made donations this week to these Canadian charities who are helping people experiencing homelessness in unique ways:
- Homes for Heroes Foundation was developed in response to the growing number of Canadian Armed Forces members returning home and having a hard time integrating.
- Hands Up Canada is a charity based in Toronto aiming to provide a better future for those who struggle to secure shelter, food, and education in some of Canada’s most marginalized communities.
- Just Socks Foundation is a volunteer-run foundation working to relieve poverty by providing one of the most basic clothing items—socks.
- Engage and Change encourages communities to give back by providing opportunities to participate in hands-on-group volunteer projects meant to help individuals experiencing poverty.
- Quest Food Exchange collaborates with grocery stores, wholesalers, and distributors to save surplus food and other goods from going to the landfill.
- The Shoebox Project was founded in Toronto in 2011 by four sisters-in-law who wanted to provide women experiencing homelessness with gifts during the holiday season when most gift drives were supporting children.
- Helping Homeless Pets supports pet rescue organizations with fundraising, medical care, and administration which helps to free up their member rescue organizations to focus on rescuing and rehoming homeless pets.
- The Period Purse is creating menstrual equity by reducing stigma surrounding periods through advocacy, education, and outreach.
If you have other charities and foundations doing good work to help those experiencing homelessness, please leave them in the comments below.
Usually, I end my posts with “Stay safe and happy cruising”. Not today. It doesn’t feel right. Instead I think I’ll simply go with…