A woman, her daughter and their two emotional support animals say they are struggling to find housing that can accommodate them after fleeing unsafe housing in Millhaven, Ont. last week.
Kelly Hennessey, her 13-year-old daughter, their St. Bernard, Willow, and pot-belly pig, Ghost, spent Sunday night at a Kingston hotel after being turned away at the last minute by another.
Prior to that, they camped two nights at Belle Park, where Hennesey said her social service workers in Napanee had advised her to come when they could not find a place to house her.
Tom Greening, director of Home Base Housing, said they had offered accommodation to Hennessey at a local shelter under the condition they crate the animals, but she declined.
“We could probably work with the dog around the house,” he said. “We’ve never had a large pig in the shelter before. There are steep stairs that go up to the second floor, hardwood floors. We really don’t know how this would work. It might work just fine, but we said we’ll have to start with the assumption that would have to be crated.”
Hennessey pulls her pig, Ghost, in a wagon for better mobility. She said she adopted him after he was born from two other rescued pigs, who were later re-homed.
“Ghost came out half the size of everyone else,” she said. “He was see-through, under developed. He died on me twice, but I brought him back. He really shouldn’t have made it,” she said. “I registered him as a support animal so they could not take him from me.”
Her daughter also has a registered support animal, Willow, who she says helps her cope with PTSD, stress and anxiety. Hennessey said she paid $180 to certify the dog and “a lot more” to certify the pig.
When asked how her life has changed since Willow joined the family, Hennessey’s daughter said: “I got my dog and everything just calmed down.”
“My daughter is the victim in all this,” Hennessey said. “She shouldn’t have to give up her dog.”
Hennessey said she feels like Covid-19 restrictions are “blocking her every move” as she tries to re-settle.
“There’s nothing available to rent, it’s causing a lack of communication. Places are operating with skeleton staff or not available,” she said.
Concerned citizen Chrystal Wilson, who has been volunteering at Belle Park, paid to put Hennessey in a hotel Sunday night out of concern for her daughter’s well-being. The first hotel room she booked cancelled on them when they arrived, so Wilson scrambled to find them another.
Hennessey originally left her rented home in Millhaven last week when the living conditions there became unsafe. From there, she went to a hotel in Napanee, then opted to buy camping equipment and relocate “somewhere out in the bush.” She said police in Napanee gave her directions to camp at a local site called the Quarry, so they would be able to monitor and assist her, but two days later she was told to move.
She said her support service workers in Napanee suggested she come to Kingston and stay at Belle Park.
The City announced on Friday, May 22, 2020 that Belle Park residents would be asked to relocate by Friday, Jun. 5, and that they will be announcing an alternate camping location shortly.
Editor’s note: The Province of Ontario does not distinguish between emotional support animals or other service animals, and there is no separate registration or certification for emotional support animals. In addition, while some organizations do sell “registrations” or “certifications” for service animals, those are not required in Ontario. The only requirement for the designation of a service animal is a letter from a regulated health professional. For more information on this, see Ontario Regulation 191/11: Integrated Accessibility Standards made under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, S.O. 2005.
Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community.
This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.