Charlottetown woman desperate for shelter

Stephanie Douglas trying to find reasonable accommodation while coping with illness

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 16, 2014

Stephanie Douglas of Charlottetown fears she will be for the first time in her life without a place to live in just a couple weeks.

©Jim Day - The Guardian

Stephanie Douglas is anxiously looking for something she has always had: a place to live.

The 52-year-old Charlottetown woman must move out of her temporary home at the end of the month.

She is living in a small, but clean, room in a bed and breakfast establishment in the capital city.

The current rent of $550/month with heat and electricity included is quite reasonable but that off-season price jumps up to $119/day starting in April — a cost well beyond her meager means.

Douglas, 52, says she has in the past always managed to find suitable accommodations in which to live. Nothing palatial, mind you, but wherever she went, she created a home.

Now, poor health and hard times have Douglas searching in vain for a suitable place to move in to with her modest possessions.

Douglas has worked as a journalist, a consultant and as a family counselor.

Today, she is not even thinking about finding work, only securing a place to live to serve as a base “for healing’’ and getting her life back on track.

She says her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD diagnosed in 2005 is “probably worse than it has ever been.’’

She has been on social assistance since November. In January, she was hospitalized for sepsis and pneumonia. For a time, she was on life support.

After surviving her illness and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was ready to discharge her, Douglas was unable to return to her shared accommodation due to poor health.

She was not provided any counseling or access to housing support.

That is when her daughter Jessika Hepburn sprung into action.

“When the hospital staff and social workers failed to assist with finding supportive housing I stepped up to try and keep Stephanie safe and off the streets until she could recover,’’ says Hepburn.

“After hundreds of calls and emails to both federal and provincial resources for housing and mental health not one organization offered a solution aside from filling an application for community housing.’’

CLICK HERE FOR A PETITION FOR DOUGLAS' CAUSE

CLICK HERE FOR A FUNDRAISER BEGUN BY HER DAUGHTER

Douglas says she simply has not been able to find any place she can afford.

She certainly isn’t looking for anything grand.

“It doesn’t matter how small it is but it needs to be functional and needs to feel like a place you can call home,’’ says Douglas. “Right now I just want a place to live...having a clean, safe, stable place where I can have people in for a cup of coffee if I want.’’

Asked why she cannot find a place to live on social assistance while so many others in P.E.I. can, Douglas says she isn’t unique. She says many people need to go hungry on lean on family support in order to afford a home on social assistance.

“I know housing is an issue for P.E.I. and it has been for a long time,’’ she says.

She believes the social assistance system is designed to humiliate and demean rather than truly assist.

“The whole system sets you up to be helpless,’’ she says.

She finds the prospect of being without a place to live extremely stressful. She has even contemplated voluntary admission to the mental health unit at the QEH.

Hepburn estimates her mother’s recent stay at the hospital’s intensive care unit cost at least $10,000.

“At best without intervention my mother will be returning to the hospital costing the province additional thousands of dollars,’’ she says.

“At worst she will take her life due to hopelessness, the cost being I lose my mom, my children lose their nana and P.E.I. loses a valuable community member all because of how difficult it has been to find housing.’’

Douglas hopes, if and when she settles into a new home, to work on once again being a productive member of society.

She would like to return to university to pursue a master’s degree and eventually go on to teach and write.