Holding six pages of dead ends in her hands, Shelly Burman remains unsure of whether she’ll have a roof over her head when the snow arrives.
As year-round residents of the Cedar Shores area, Shelly and her husband David have been looking for rental housing throughout Muskoka as they continue to battle building code and bylaw charges, laid against their property as part of a town crackdown on illegal properties in their area.
Shortly before appearing in a Bracebridge court on Tuesday, Sept. 25, the couple produced six pages of a notebook filled with rental properties that offered the promise of a new home. But so far, they say they haven’t found a suitable place that has been willing to take them in.
Surviving on a meager budget of $1,700 a month in disability payments, the Burmans are not in the best of health. David is battling cancer, while Shelley — his primary caregiver — suffers from depression. Further hindering their search is their smoking, their ownership of a dog, and the fact that they are both retirees.
“The last place I called, they thought we are too old to run a wood stove,” said Shelly.
Since the time the Bracebridge Examiner first caught up with the Burmans in late February, the couple has made efforts to remove a number of surplus trailers on their property to meet the town’s demands. Many of their neighbours, who are seasonal residents, have complied with the town’s demands already.
At the Burmans’ place, the only structure still standing is the trailer they live in.
Town solicitor Harold Elston acknowledged the fact that the couple has made efforts to meet the town’s demands, but said more still needs to be done.
“Certainly from the town’s perspective, we’d like to see it cleaned up this year,” he said before the court. “My suggestion would be we come back on November 20 to be spoken to.”
Notwithstanding the prospect of being homeless, the Burmans said they would need more time to tear down their home, especially when the arrival of cold weather and their ill health is considered.
“It’ll take us another summer to complete it,” said David.
The Burmans say their children have agreed to open their homes to them if necessary. But as retirees with an empty nest, that option comes down to a matter of personal dignity.
“It’s like going backwards in life,” said Shelly.
In the end, the couple agreed to return to court on Nov. 20 and agreed to continue working with the town toward a resolution in the meantime.