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'Van Life': Orillia resident finds unique solution to housing crisis

BEHIND THE SCENES: Faced with increasingly difficult rental situations, an Orillia woman has found a workaround

OrilliaMatters reporter Greg McGrath-Goudie recently went behind the scenes with Scott Sexsmith to tell us more about Valerie Verhey's story and situation.

Behind the Scenes is a feature that takes you deeper into the story by the reporter who covered it. To watch previous episodes of Behind the Scenes click here.

Valerie Verhey of Orillia, has found a unique solution to combat the housing crisis. With rental options becoming increasingly untenable, several years ago, Valerie decided to put her home on the road and converted a cube van into an apartment. The van started out as a basic setup but over time, she has brought in all sorts of amenities such as a sink, furnace, and even an oven.

The van is now equipped with all the comforts of home.

For Verhey, parking is a major issue during the winter months with street parking restrictions and snow removal in some parking lots. To address this issue, she has approached the City and proposed several ideas including having spots in parking lots on a rotating basis, designating one or two spots in multiple lots throughout the city, and having developers designate van life parking zones within developments they are creating.

So far, the city council has not approved anything, but they have sent the request to the Affordable Housing Committee to consider further at a later meeting.

In addition to approaching the city, Valerie also recommended a website called Project Vanlife which offers resources for people who are considering starting to live in their vehicles. There is also a group for Orillia Van Life members who can connect via an app.

The story of Valerie's van-home highlights the state of the housing crisis, and the lengths of resilience and creativity that people will go to try and overcome difficult situations. While Valerie would prefer to live in a nice house, the van has given her a sense of autonomy and the ability to navigate her situation. It's a working solution for her and a branch on the tree before facing homelessness.

Although Verhey does not view “van life” as a permanent solution to the housing crisis, it has helped her, at least, escape a string of increasingly untenable rental situations.