GRAVENHURST - Hopefully when it rains, it won’t always pour.
Roxane McDonald plans to move to Orillia where she hopes to find better job prospects and transportation. Here she is perched on the station wagon that was once her only home. Without her car, she says she can no longer stay in Muskoka.
By Neil Etienne
Bala’s adopted daughter Roxane (nee Dugas) McDonald, 45 and a widow, who since Nov. 1 of 2012 has been comfortable indoors after about a year of being homeless in her hometown of Gravenhurst, says she’s likely destined for the streets again at the end of April. This time, unfortunately, it will be without her former trusted “house-on-wheels”; her late-model Ford Focus station wagon that served as her home for the better part of a year has seen its last days. She said it broke down earlier in March and since she has had to hitchhike into Bala or Gravenhurst for employment services, grabbing school supplies, to see her son, for medical appointments and more.
“Without the wheels now and with my lease ending at the end of April, I’m going to have to look to moving to a place like Orillia where there’s likely more jobs, bus services to get around and to a job,” McDonald said. “Bala has been a blessing for me this winter; it was so special what people here did for me and kept me out of the cold for the winter; but now without the car, going to school and hoping to work, it’s too secluded to be able to survive here now.
“A place like Orillia can offer year-round employment, and here it’s all very seasonal and it’s too secluded without a car,” she added, saying her desire since being forced to the streets in late 2011 was to stay in Muskoka and near her son but she’s going to have to settle with “close-to-Muskoka” instead.
Unemployed and claiming nothing but her widow’s allowance, McDonald was forced to the streets in late 2011 after surgery for a degenerative knee condition knocked her off her feet. Permitted into district-run emergency housing on two separate occasions for about two weeks at a time, she had otherwise spent all of 2012 living in her car around the streets of Gravenhurst. Following a series of stories in the Banner regarding her situation, people from the communities of Bala and Torrance rallied and got her off the streets and into an apartment. Still responsible to pay the approximately $700 in rent, local Good Samaritans and church members raised funds to provide McDonald with food, help cover her rent for the past five or so months and provide a few of the necessary accoutrements, like bedding, a couple of chairs and cooking supplies. That allowed her to use what little income she had to help fund her continuing education to hopefully break her cycle of poverty as well as maintain her vehicle.
McDonald said she’s nearing the end of her first three of six courses for fundraising and that schooling has been going very well. She is due to complete those in mid-April, right around the time when she will find out when a second knee surgery will be scheduled for the condition that has now spread to her other leg.
Knowing she’ll be laid up for some time to recover while also losing the car and hoping to finish the final three courses of her program, staying in Bala beyond the six month lease she signed in November won’t be possible.
“I love Muskoka, it’s my home and not a place I want to leave, but I have to be sensible too; without a vehicle, no public transportation, not many housing options and being so heavy on seasonal work and otherwise pretty isolated, it feels like I have no other choice at this point,” she said. “But things will be better soon enough.”
McDonald is currently doing occasional fundraising and marketing work for an events planner based out of Barrie and will be helping with another fundraising project out toward Parry Sound in April as well, so she said her skills and on-going education are already paying some small dividends, and she will be doing some stand-up comedy through Yuk Yuk’s as well, living out another one of her dreams.
“People here (in Bala) have really helped me and I couldn’t ask for more than what they’ve done for me; helping me with a roof for the winter, and get back into school,” she said, adding if anyone has a line on inexpensive apartments in the Orillia region, she’d like to hear about it at email@example.com.