Single men 'left behind', some living in the woods, housing advocate says
Disappearance of boarding houses contributing to the problem
An anti-poverty advocate in Yarmouth, N.S., says single men are falling through the cracks due to a lack of affordable and stable housing — to the point where some end up homeless in the woods.
Joelle Peach, housing co-ordinator for the Split Rock Learning Centre — which offers assistance to people over the age of 16 — said most of the clients she sees are single men.
It's rare to find programs and resources that specifically target that demographic, she said, even though the need is great. "The males seem to be kind of left behind," she said.
Peach said the perception is that a single man can take care of himself.
"They're expected to, kind of, take on that male gender role of I'm the man, I will provide for myself. Unfortunately, that's not everybody's truth. That's not everybody's story," Peach said.
Boarding houses gone
Jim Graham, with the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, agreed that single people are "certainly the most prone to be under-resourced," although he said he wasn't sure it was accurate to exclude women from the equation.
He said shelter allowance is minimal for people on income assistance: $300 for a single person, plus a personal allowance of $255 to cover all other expenses.
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"If you couple that with the fact that the number of boarding houses has totally collapsed — especially in Halifax — in the past decade or so", people don't have many options when it comes to renting a room, Graham said.
"We're down to a handful of licensed boarding houses where there used to be dozens and dozens," he said. "Those opportunities have just slowly gone by the wayside."
Isolated out of frustration
Peach said men often end up in crisis situations that lead to homelessness.
Maybe they were staying with family or friends and had a disagreement, or maybe they were evicted by a landlord for not following the rules and "eventually, if you do that long enough, you get to the end of the road and there is no place for you," she said.
Sometimes they isolate themselves out of anger or frustration, Peach said. "You, as a society, have turned your back on me. I will do the same to you.
"You do that enough, then you're out," she said. "You're out on the street, you're out in the woods."
Living in the woods
In some cases, Peach said, people will seek shelter in the forest.
"It's more common than I think most people realize," she said. "Perhaps they've found an already built shelter such as a hunting perch, or a little cabin, or even I've heard of break-ins in people's little sheds in the back of properties, maybe under a tree."
"That is a small percentage of the people that I have seen, but it has happened."