CAMBRIDGE – Pat Fenemore is not where she wants to be.
It took a village to help Fenemore find a place to live after the 91-year-old was evicted from her trailer on the bank of the Grand River in April.
After initially planning to sleep in her car, Fenemore found herself living in a motel room in Cambridge before social workers helped her find a place in a local nursing home.
It’s not quite the outdoor freedom she hoped for, but the bedroom at Dunbar Heights Seniors Living includes multiple meals a day, kind workers and short-term stability as she tries to regain her independence. .
“It’s a big room, but I don’t think I can really afford it indefinitely,” she said of the 28-suite assisted living facility. “When I finally get out of here, I’ll probably be broke. But at least they found a place that could keep the cats.
Three cat crates line the wall of her one-room suite, which also includes a couch, bed, and ensuite bathroom. The floors are gray and a single window lets light from the overcast sky into the basement room.
Cats rush under the bed every time someone enters the room. At the trailer they had a cat door so they could roam freely around the trailer park, but at least the cats are back with Fenemore, who couldn’t have cats in the motel room.
“I’ll tell you, one of the best days of my life was the day we picked up the cats from the vet,” she said.
She had been living in a caravan in North Dumfries for more than a decade when problems with the park’s sewage system forced its owners to evict some residents rather than pay for an expensive upgrade.
Fenemore owned her trailer but rented the land and was one of the few evicted.
“It was awful, really. I just felt violated,” Fenemore said. “Of all the people in this park, why choose a single 91-year-old woman with no family nearby to fire her?”
When the sheriff showed up in April, Fenemore planned to spend the night in his car before backing into trees, setting off a series of events that would end with him checking into a hotel in Paris the next day.
Fearing she might have dementia, a hotel employee called police, who connected Fenemore with Michelle Knight, who works in eviction prevention with the Waterloo Region Center for Social Development.
Knight took Fenemore to a cheaper motel in Cambridge after it was clear she was fully faculties and connected her with outreach workers to help with food, medical care and accommodation .
It’s been over a month and Fenemore still has a team of dedicated workers helping out, many of whom go above and beyond their job description.
“I think one of the problems is that there’s no one place someone can go that can solve all the different problems,” said Knight, who stopped by Monday to check on Fenemore. “You build relationships and you want to make sure everyone is okay, so you keep helping.”
Fenemore has now had her driver’s license revoked, so she is even more dependent on others to help her with her daily chores. She is convinced that she will get it back.
She also needs cataract surgery, but the pandemic slowdown in surgeries means there are years of waiting.
While she still hopes to find a place to live in the countryside, Fenemore has agreed to stay in a room in Dunbar Heights while she considers her next move.
The house is expensive for anyone living on a limited income, and Fenemore is burning through their savings.
Dunbar Heights offers semi-private rooms for $2,200 per month; which rises to $2,950 for a small private room and $3,150 for a larger private room. It also charges a supplement for pets.
She doesn’t see it as a long-term option.
“I’m waiting for this situation to turn around for me,” she said. “There have been times, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
She’s on the hunt for a new trailer, has seen several, and has more to see this week, but many are out of her price range and some aren’t livable in the winter.
She also doesn’t want to find herself expelled again.
She has a cousin in Stratford, she said, and another in London, and is now looking for places near both towns.
She’s not where she wants to be, but said she’s happy for now. It’s been a tumultuous few months, but she navigates the tense times with a dry sense of humor that makes everyone around her laugh.
“If you see me walk out the front door with three cat cages, you know I’m going out and escaping,” she said.