“We Just Want to Survive” Says Resident of Homeless Encampment on Cobourg Shoreline

In Editor Choice, Local

At any given time there are up to 20-people living in an encampment on the west beach in Cobourg.

A woman named Virginia and her common-law boyfriend named Chris discussed living on the beach on the west side of the west pier with Today’s Northumberland.

“I’m here because of the shelters available to us in Cobourg will not accommodate people who are married or in long term relationships.”

“When you’re in a situation you already have so little the idea of me separating isn’t acceptable. It’s not something I can live with.”

“Even just in another room is more than I’m willing to deal with.”

Virginia said they’ve been friends for over 20-years, but have been together for five years.

At any given time, she said there can be up to 20 people living in the encampment.

There are approximately seven tents, but Virginia says there is a “community” tent, where new arrivals can shelter until they get settled.

The previous night there was up to five people in the tent.

Asking Virginia what the answer is, she said in her dreams she would love to have land and have a tiny home community.

Given the opportunity Virginia said that homeless people would thrive.

“There is so much history, and so many stories and so much talent – sometimes they just get forgotten.”

Virginia, who along with her common law partner and another person were displaced after raw sewage shut down where they were living at 413 Division Street on July 28.

She said it’s not a question of how long they can stay there, she says, “how long can we not stay here?”

There’s not another shelter for us. There is only answer for us. There is only 20-beds in Cobourg for a homeless shelter and there is 20 just here – that’s not even touching the rest of the people that are out there.”

Northumberland County has stated there are four beds available at Transition House for those displaced from Division Street.

Virginia said, “it’s sad. They didn’t have those spaces available. They opened them up at the County’s request. They could have been available before, but they were not – because of COVID.”

But she said others are told by the County that Transition House is at capacity.

“They’re only available to certain people. People who would rather be here.”

Virginia says the Count is saying one thing to the media and another thing to people who want to go to Transition House.

Virginia admits she does do illegal drugs and it can have a factor in homelessness, she was living on Division Street.

“It’s a big demon, but it’s still a mental health concern.”

When she was living at Division Street, Virginia said she always had her door open to people who are homeless.

“It’s a lot, it’s exhausting, it’s hard on your relationship, but it’s so, so very rewarding.”

For those facing homelessness, Virginia said they all want help.

“Not wanting help is not the same as being able to fit into the box you’re put in to survive.”

“Some people can’t survive in a institutional setting.”

When the Warming Room is open during the winter months, Virginia said it’s not open during the day, along with campsites being torn down all the time – so you’re carrying your entire life on your back and told to leave.

“You’re expected to get better and fix your problems when they spend their entire life, packing u their life and toting it around looking for somewhere else to sleep.”

“There is a lot of barriers in place that don’t need to be there.”

When the couple and others will be able to go back into their Division Street home is unknown.

Virginia has heard “rumours” about repairs being made, but there is no timeline.

Maybe some people don’t want help with their status and where they are living, but, “I think the majority of people would like to be safe, secure and apart of society.”

The couple says there is no long or short term help available.

“I know people in the community that have been trafficked. There are your neighbours, your neighbours daughters. There are very real problems going on here and we just keep ignoring it because we don’t like the aesthetics.”

Getting rid of encampments is putting people in danger Virginia says.

Cobourg Council is holding an Emergency Meeting with the town solicitor. Virginia says that the encampments also have legal representation.

“Would you rather have us scattered all over the town? Would that look better?”

The group chose the area they are in because it is more private.

“We’re trying to work with the town. No one wants to be hassled. It shouldn’t be embarrassing, but it is.”

“We just want to be able to get through this and doing it together helps. There is strength in numbers.”

Chris says, “there are basic human rights to shelter.”

Simply put Virginia says, “if you think you’re going to keep drugs off the street by making people hit the streets you’re wrong. If you think you’re going to keep crime off the street and put them in desperate situations, you’re wrong. We just want to survive. We’re responsible adults, we’re just unfortunately is a very unexpected situation.”

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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