What it's like to live in a hotel room during the COVID-19 pandemic
Rehana Mirzad's family is stuck waiting for affordable housing
Rehana Mirzad understands the need to stay home as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She just wishes her home wasn't a hotel room.
"It's really hard. I can't move. I can't do anything," said Mirzad, who shares the roughly 250-square-foot space with her two sons. The hotel room has a bathroom, but there's no cooking area, and the balcony door is permanently locked.
Mirzad and her sons have been living in the hotel room as part of the city of Ottawa's temporary housing program, as they sit on the city's waiting list for affordable housing.
The Carling Avenue hotel has been the trio's home for the past year and a half, after they fled an abusive relationship in Sweden.
"For the kids it's really hard too because they stay here all day. They can't go out and play."
No privacy for anyone
In normal times, her sons Cameron, 12, and Daniel, 16, play soccer, while Mirzad practices yoga.
But since the pandemic brought life to a halt, all three have had to share the small room, with Mirzad's sons doing their school work as she completes her high school diploma online.
Walks in the neighbourhood help, said Mirzad, but they're also a reminder of how most families have more space to breathe.
"They're living. I'm not living, I'm just waiting and waiting and waiting. When I come back and see this tiny room I think 'Oh my God, I feel like I'm going to jail,' and I kind of get depressed," she said.
"I miss [having] a kitchen. I miss my privacy. I miss my life."
Gone too is Mirzad's routine of volunteering at the nearby Food for Thought Café, a now-closed community hub for the Caldwell Avenue area where neighbours had gathered and shared food.
Without a kitchen, Mirzad has had to use a rice cooker set up on the hotel room's desk.
"Rice, pasta, rice, pasta, rice, pasta … now I hate them," jokes Mirzad.
Despite her feelings of claustrophobic dread, the family does try to keep their spirits raised, says Mirzad.
"I'll play music and we'll dance," she said. "I try to be positive and tell them it won't be forever, that we'll find a house one day."