British Columbia

82-year-old Sechelt woman living in car

An 82-year-old Sechelt, B.C., woman who has been living in her car for six months says all she wants is a clean, safe and affordable place to live.

'I ask the health department if they can help ... seems to me after 82 you are a write off, you are nobody.'

82-year-old Sechelt resident Doris Anthonysz has been living in her car for 6 months. (Linda Harris)

An 82-year-old Sechelt, B.C., woman who has been living in her car for six months says all she wants is a clean, safe and affordable place to live.

Doris Anthonysz says she can't make ends meet on her $1,300 per month pension, especially in a town where the lack of affordable housing in the community 50 kilometres northwest of Vancouver is a growing problem

"I ask the health department on a regular basis if they can help me find a house, ask them if they can help me," she told CBC News from her car.

Anthonysz frequently parks and sleeps near a Sechelt beach. "On my beach, I am happy here," she says. (Linda Harris)

"Seems to me after 82 you are a write off, you are nobody," she added. 

Anthonysz, who is estranged from her four children, says she first moved to Sechelt in 1974, and used to work in the Sechelt Hospital laundry.

She claims a bad experience with her last landlord left her out on the street, unable to find suitable accommodation in her price range.  

"They want $800 dollars [per month]. It's cheaper to live in my car," Anthonysz said. "It's very well looked after my car, it's my personal object. Everybody knows my car and everyone smiles at Doris and her yellow car."

"I'm a very healthy person and I'm very strong," she added.

Sechelt resident Linda Harris learned about Anthonysz from a Facebook post, and has talked to the elderly woman a couple of times.

"She's obviously lovely, well-spoken and homeless," said Harris. "The RCMP are keeping an eye on her at night. She's not medically sick or mentally ill so the hospital wouldn't be able to do anything. People know about her, but nobody knows what to do."

Anthonysz says of living in her car, "... some people are nice to you, but some look at you like you're from another planet." (Linda Harris)

Harris says she is noticing more homeless in Sechelt than ever before and thinks a short-term solution would be to open the town's temporary emergency homeless shelter.

Located in St. Hilda's Anglican Church, the shelter received emergency funding to open last winter after a homeless man froze to death in nearby Gibsons.

"With our hot weather coming and this woman living in her car, she could die of dehydration," said Harris. "She doesn't have teeth, so what can she eat? We can get her some light food and some Ensure [meal replacement drink] but we don't want her to die before we do something about it."

According to local resident Duane Burnett the waterfront home across from where Anthonysz parks to sleep at night has been "flipped three times in the past year [but] remains empty most of the time."

Burnett, who calls affordable low income housing a pet cause, calls the situation a "tragedy."

Vancouver Coastal Health told CBC News they were looking into Anthonysz's situation.

Anthonysz says she's heard other homeless women in town talk of committing suicide, but that she herself is "not a suicide person."

"What do I wish? I wish the government would give us more money," she said.

"Why do we have to live on the edge?"