With only a few worldly possessions and an urn with her husband’s ashes in her hands, Tracey Grenier spent the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 21 counting down the minutes until she officially became homeless.
HOMELESS WITH HER HUSBAND..
Tracey Grenier holds an urn with the ashes of her husband Marco outside a Bracebridge motel where she had been staying. Having exhausted all her financial resources and unwilling to relocate to shelters outside of town, Grenier was left with no other choice but to live on the street. (Photo by Louis Tam)
For much of the summer, a drab, one-bed motel room was the closest thing the Bracebridge woman could call a home. But by that sunny Tuesday morning, Grenier had exhausted her finances and her latest Ontario Disability Support Program cheque, and could no longer afford to keep the roof over her head.
With the 11 a.m. checkout time approaching, Grenier had no survival supplies prepared.
“I’m freaking out right now, because I know where I’m going to end up, on the street with my husband’s ashes,” she said. “As of right now I’m on the street.”
Grenier’s downward spiral began when her husband Marco died in June from a prescription drug overdose while they were living at a resort in Bracebridge.
She said her husband had been prescribed Fentanyl — a powerful painkiller — following an accident involving a vehicle. Although the drug was meant to be administered in patches, Grenier said her husband began smoking the substance to get more effective pain relief.
“My husband just couldn’t take the pain anymore,” she said.
For reasons that are still murky, the resort’s owner decided to evict Grenier shortly after her husband’s death, leaving her scrambling to find affordable housing in town. Finding available housing too expensive, she eventually settled on the motel, but claims she was harassed by neighbouring tenants since she arrived. As well, she’s also been forced to cope with a number of health problems.
“I have scoliosis … robotic spine, I have a nerve disorder, I suffer from severe trauma and anxiety, severe panic attacks,” she said. “I have three spinal disorders and am not well mentally because of my husband’s death. I’m very sad right now.”
Grenier said she was turned away from a shelter for abused women in town because they had no space left. Kathy Aitken, a social worker from the Salvation Army who has worked with Grenier, said the only option left was relocation to a shelter in cities like Orillia, Toronto or Hamilton. Social services agencies in Muskoka, she said, would be able to help her with the bus fare.
However, Grenier turned down the idea of moving away from Bracebridge.
With no other alternative housing that Grenier could afford in town, the best Aitken and staff from the Salvation Army could do was to provide Grenier with a sleeping bag and clothing so she could survive.
“We have helped with the resources we have available,” she said.
The Salvation Army also lent a van to help Grenier move from her motel room, and Aitken herself helped Grenier load her possessions onto it. Grenier asked to be dropped off at a location behind an area grocery store, where she began her new life on the street.
Though Grenier left her cellphone number with this newspaper, efforts to follow up on her situation have since been unsuccessful.