Politics

Outpouring of support after COVID-19 fears leave Ottawa nurse homeless

An Ottawa nurse who was left homeless because of fears she would spread COVID-19 says she now has a temporary place to stay and is working on finding a more permanent home.

Kathrine Slinski now has a place to stay during the pandemic, but is still struggling with rental market

Ottawa nurse Kathrine Slinski says she's had an outpouring of generosity after CBC News reported on her eviction over COVID-19 fears. She says she has been offered a temporary place to live as she looks for a permanent home. (Kathrine Slinski)

An Ottawa nurse who was left homeless because of fears she would spread COVID-19 says she now has a temporary place to stay and is working on finding a more permanent home.

Kathrine Slinski's story of being repeatedly rejected as a tenant because of her job shone a spotlight on some of the challenges health care workers face during this pandemic. The response to her story, however, is a reminder of another truth — there are also people willing to step up and help out someone in need. 

"I have been really struck by how generous people are."

Nearly a week after CBC News first reported that Slinski had been left without a home because her landlady feared she would contract COVID-19 from the nurse, Slinski said she is still receiving offers from strangers of places to stay and even free meals.

"It's crazy," she said of the outpouring of support.

Home for now

For the time being, Slinski has moved into a space in a co-op near downtown Ottawa. The man the unit belongs to reached out to her after hearing the report that she had lost her home. Slinski said his place is available to her for free for the remainder of the COVID-19 outbreak while he stays with his son.

That gives her some time to try to find a more permanent place to live, she said.

She has also returned to work after taking several days off to sort out her housing situation.

I work and I make an income. I can't imagine what it's like for other people. Honestly, I'm reduced to this, even though I work hard every day- Kathrine Slinski, Ottawa nurse

Slinski works as a community care nurse, often dealing with palliative care patients. 

While she's not in a hospital or testing centre, her work is still affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. She said there are new policies on personal protective equipment and she has to learn how to conduct virtual visits with some patients.

Despite all the stress she's faced, she's still glad to be a nurse.

"I'd never change what I do for a living." 

Rental challenges persist in 'horrible' market

While Slinski is grateful for all the offers of help, she still faces challenges in finding a permanent place to rent. 

Her recent ordeal has convinced her she should stop trying to rent a room in someone else's home, but her budget is a challenge.

As a registered practical nurse, she said she doesn't make as much as a registered nurse. She said she also gives financial support to her two children, who are 18 and 20.

"I work and I make an income. I can't imagine what it's like for other people. Honestly, I'm reduced to this, even though I work hard every day."

She's looking into the process of enrolling with the city for a rental unit geared to her income. But she knows the waiting list can be long.

She describes the rental market in Ottawa as a "horrible situation."

Still, she's grateful that she's not facing immediate homelessness and now has time to try to sort out her options.

Asked why she thinks so many people offered her help, she notes that public opinion surveys consistently show nurses are among the most trusted professions. But she doesn't take any personal credit.

"I help give people relief and some kind of comfort. I think that the effort and the time I put into it is no different to anybody else who is out there working right now."

And in the midst of this outbreak, she said, that help is being provided by so many essential workers.

About the Author

Catherine Cullen

Parliamentary Bureau

Catherine Cullen is a senior reporter covering politics and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

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