Amy Cresine is making it work.
“It’s falling into the ground,” the single mother said of the little old house she rents in Guysborough.
Last Friday afternoon she had a fire on in the stove in the kitchen and a pile of dishes to get done.
She had Christmas presents for her four children to think about.
Her mother’s health to think about.
She’d just got back from working as a monitor at the elementary school.
If there was time before her four kids got home from school, she’d spare a bit of time for improving the home they return to.
In rural Nova Scotia there’s often just not another place to rent.
“People around here, they want to sell,” said Cresine.
“I have eyes everywhere looking for another place.”
There is nowhere in Guysborough with room for four children and herself that she could afford on the $600 a month she is provided through social services. She is on the list for a new place through the Eastern Mainland Housing Authority, and if somewhere better comes up they’d be willing to bump her to $700 a month.
But for now, this is where she’ll make her stand.
Her life is all about decisions.
She might have better luck finding a place in a bigger community, or even a more rural one.
But Cresine has decided to stay in Guysborough because she has parents
and aunts and uncles nearby who provide critical support — a drive when one is needed, a set of eyes on the children at times, and a sense of community.
“It’s better for my kids here,” said Cresine.
“I feel better about letting them run up the street than I would in Antigonish.”
After the bills are paid she has about $800 a month for groceries, school supplies, clothes and all the other things four children need.
“It’s hard but you do the best with what you have,” said Cresine.
Beyond family and a sense of safety — Cresine came home to the community after living in Antigonish and Kentville — Guysborough has other things going for it.
So she doesn’t need a car.
She walks to her job as a lunchtime monitor at the school, which pays about $214 a month. (Social Services claws back 70 per cent of anything she earns over $150 dollars monthly.) Six evenings a week she’s walking children to something — art nights, ugly sweater walks, Jumpstart, Girl Guides.
“Our municipality is really good for that and most of it doesn’t cost us anything,” said Cresine.
When they moved into the house five years ago it had a tiny wood stove in the kitchen. With a draft coming through the wooden floor boards, the house would nearly freeze up at night.
So she bought a larger, more modern, used stove from a friend who let her pay it off as her cheques came in. Her father installed it. She has six cords of firewood, bought by Social Services, stacked out back.
The house had two bedrooms but with her father’s help they converted it into a three-bedroom.
There’s an electric storage heater that looks outof place in the old house in what serves as a living room. It heats bricks
during the off hours when electricity is cheaper, then allows the heat out during the day — but she finds it expensive to run so she relies onthe wood as much as possible.
What constitutes a victory in housing, as in life, is often determined by how you measure it.
Cresine didn’t plan on being a single mother to four children.
But she is one and she’s making it work the best she can.
The house she’s renting, at least for now, is the best option available to her.
“My children aren’t growing up with a silver spoon in their mouths, but they have what they need,” said Cresine.
“Life’s not easy, but I do enjoy my children and watching them grow.”
- Aaron Beswick