Dayle Crouse isn't looking for sympathy, praise or handouts; she simply wants to bring attention to the lack of affordable housing in the province.
The mother of three has spent the past five months living in a tent at a local campground after being unable to find a suitably priced two-bedroom apartment in the Lunenburg area for her and her family.
After deciding to downsize from her previous rental space, she gave up her lease with plans to find something smaller. Based on past experience, she knew there was a shortage of reasonably priced rentals in the area, but she never really expected to run out of options when her lease ended.
"Everything was more expensive and not available, so all of a sudden we found ourselves without a home,'' says Crouse. She was already spending a good chunk of her wages from her job at a local coffee shop on rent and heat, and now she was looking at 80 per cent of her wages going to rent before any expenses, which concerned her a lot.
Once the situation became desperate, she decided to go the unconventional way and live in a tent at a nearby campground. She subsequently bought an old school bus in August, moved it on-site and began renovating it into a tiny home.
She and her children lived in a tent from May until just recently, when a storm shredded the roof of their tent. Fortunately, the bus renovation was far enough along that they could move inside, and although it's in no way finished the bus at least provides them with a stable shelter.
Crouse and her youngest child will be moving to a temporary short-term cottage rental late this winter, and she'll continue working on the bus herself and with help from others when needed. The community has been supportive and, at times, shocked by her situation. "People call me brave or strong but it's not that I'm brave or strong, it's what other choice did I have? I could go stay with family, friends or at a hotel, but it's not a practical solution.''
Although reluctant to get into the politics of the situation, one candidate did reach out to her during the recent municipal election and visited her at the campground, which she appreciated.
"Regardless of what they can actually do once they get in power, just seeing the situation means so much more. I'd like to invite all of the federal candidates to come door knocking here and see someone in your community who actually lives like this and talk to me.''
A lot of changes need to be made to make housing more accessible and affordable, says Dayle, and it needs to be fixed now. "It shouldn't take a working white woman who looks acceptable in society for everyone to start feeling bad,'' she bluntly states. "This is such a big issue, but I think now that it's affecting families, people are starting to take notice. What it all boils down to is that we need to think differently and while I might be happy living in a bus, it's not feasible for everyone,' says Crouse.