‘I’m just winging it’: Cornwall woman details homeless quandary

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall woman fleeing a bad relationship and a drug-filled environment after leaving that relationship believes she’s fallen through the cracks trying to get a roof over her head for herself and her 11-year-old daughter.

Cornwall Newswatch has chosen not to name her because it’s a domestic violence case involving children.

The 36-year-old was charged in August 2020 with assault, assault with a weapon and mischief. The woman claims her boyfriend cheated on her, she left, and then he pressed charges. A police report alleges the common-law husband was bitten and the woman attempted to hit him with a metal pipe and also damaged property. She denies ever attacking him and intends to defend herself by taking the case to trial.

After being released, she says one of her two sureties was a man she “didn’t know him from Adam” and was involved with drugs. Since she was living in a “drug house,” she had her daughter’s dad take her because she “wasn’t in a good place” – until the father was busted by the RCMP.

“I was informed by CAS that I needed to have her full time, with him having no contact with her until further notice,” she says. There was further fallout with the second surety as well.

“Now here I am on my own recognizance, under house arrest, so I don’t have to take my daughter to a drug house. Basically trying to keep my daughter safe (and) now I’m on my own, I have nowhere to live,” the 36-year-old says.

The woman claims she’s been turned down “multiple times” from Baldwin House because she “hasn’t lived with the victim” within three months “and because I was charged with assault. It’s a shelter for abused woman, so here I am beating men supposedly.”

Danielle MacNeil, public educator with Baldwin House, says woman facing charges would “absolutely not (be) a reason why someone would be declined service” because in many domestic violence cases both the woman and her abuser are charged if there’s a physical altercation. As for the three month window after leaving an abuser, MacNeil says it’s a touchy situation because of government funding rules. “The ministry cracked down and basically said that shelters that are funded with Violence Against Women dollars are not allowed to act as homeless shelters,” she tells Cornwall Newswatch. Someone who had fled, found shelter and then lost that shelter, would be seen as homeless rather than fleeing a domestic violence situation.

“Since last year, I’ve tried to get help. I don’t have first and last (month’s rent). I’m trying to just stay alive here basically living from one drug house to another because I have no choice,” the woman said. “I’m just winging it.”

She says she was “terrified,” but called the Children’s Aid Society of SD&G for help, fearful they would take her daughter away if they knew her circumstances. “Basically everything I’m doing is trying to keep her safe and for them to take her away, what would be the point of even fighting anymore, right?” she sobbed.

She says the CAS gave her four days help and then “sorry, we’re done helping you.”

The CAS was not available for an interview in time for publication.

The woman is hoping to bring attention to her situation so agencies are aware and others don’t fall into the same situation.

“Everything’s against me putting me behind when I’m just trying to do better,” she said, suggesting further court breaches and more money she’s had to dole out – money that could be used for shelter – is the result of incompetent defence lawyers.

“I’m positive I’m not the only one that’s dealing with this and has ever dealt with this. You know, if I can shed some light on it then it’s better off for the other person.”

“After this, I’m opening my own shelter.”