by Brileigh Hardcastle
Image Factory, February 25th – March 8th, 2019
I grew up in a house in the middle of a street called Middlefield, located in the middle of the neighbourhood of Coldsprings, Peterborough. At one point the whole neighbourhood would have been empty fields. Over the course of my life Coldsprings has reached its limits for housing development; now it is besieged by highway, river, and hills. Hidden away in the southeastern tip of this neighbourhood is a small section of forested land that remains untouched: Corrigan Hill.
Growing up, I would run carefree over this hill, referring to it as “Narnia,” as if it were a magical faraway forest that would liberate me from the reality of this cookie-cutter neighbourhood. Separated by the chain link fences and wood panels of various residences, this hill is the extended backyard view for many suburbanites, an often unregarded plot of land that looks out to the rest of the city. Despite its insignificance to many, it has become one of the few remaining places for the homeless to seek shelter.
At a stagnant 1 percent vacancy rate, the city of Peterborough has increasing difficulty in providing housing for the homeless. With over three hundred people seeking shelter, the mere five community shelters that exist for the homeless have all exceeded capacity and are waitlisted, making it difficult for these residents to live through the colder seasons. Additionally, public spaces including the downtown strip and public parks receive numerous complaints regarding the presence and tenting of homeless persons, forcing them to seek spaces unknown and disregarded by the public. Ironically, this has forced migrants to set up tarps in the backyard of the many residents at Corrigan Hill. With the migrants’ fear of being reported, tarps are hastily wrapped up and hidden away during the day and then set up again for the night. For many, it is the only way they can live. Fearing that they will be further displaced and moved again by the city, many take down their lived environments during the day to lower the risk of receiving complaints.
The images in this series depict these secret spots and remnants of migrant homes in close proximity to the suburb. A place I once called “Narnia,” which I would share in secret with friends, Corrigan Hill has become the reserved residence for the homeless. Its neglected woodland allows many to live in secrecy, not by choice but out of desperation. The images in this show are merely the basis of what will become an ongoing case study and collaboration with those in need, that will work to bring awareness and find a resolution to the homeless epidemic in Peterborough.