ABBOTSFORD, B.C. —
Katie Hobson’s home for the past two years has been her 1995 Ford Ranger pickup, with a small motorcycle cargo trailer attached to the back.
The 36-year-old former teacher is now living in a remote area near Cranbrook with her dog, Chester. Part of the reason for her isolation: severe environmental sensitivities that cause debilitating migraines. She also suffers from a number of other medical conditions, and for a time needed a PICC line, or catheter to the vein, inserted to be able to take regular intravenous medications.
“It’s a challenge for anybody who’s homeless to be in the elements,” Hobson told CTV. “And then for myself, with the added medical issues that I have, like the migraines and the allergies to everything, it just pushes homelessness to this whole new level of what feels like a complete impossibility.”
Hobson does not have heat, plumbing, or power. She is not able to stay at campsites or parks due to the odours that will trigger her migraines. In the winters, she’s driven down into the U.S. to avoid the cold.
“Last year, for example, in this area where I’m at, Chester and I made it till about middle of October, and then the temperatures dropped to minus 13,” Hobson said. “It was just so cold.”
Hobson’s mother Ronda said prior to becoming homeless, her daughter had been renting a place in Sechelt which did not aggravate her allergies, but the house was sold.
“At that same time she got sepsis from her PICC line,” Ronda said. “Between those two things, she’s not been able to find a place to be able to tolerate and to live in, especially since the sepsis, because her sensitivities are even worse than they’ve been.”
Ronda said Hobson was an incredible teacher who specialized in high school English, but ultimately had to go on permanent disability after a year due to her allergies.
“That was very hard for her,” Ronda said. “Katie is just a really incredible woman. She really is very gifted. She writes music, she plays her guitar….I just would like to see her live out her special life with her condition, to be able to live it to the fullest that she can.”
Now an online fundraiser is collecting donations to help improve Hobson’s living situation, including finding her a more reliable vehicle and ordering a custom self-contained trailer.
Bud Stephenson with All Parts Trailers is helping coordinate the special order with an American manufacturer.
“It’s going to be almost all metal inside. Very, very little of anything else,” Stephenson said, and added they have to avoid using plastic due to Hobsons sensitivities. “This one she’ll be able to hook onto a regular smaller pickup truck and move it around at will.”
Stephenson said they’ve never ordered a trailer with those unique specifications before. He also said a surge in demand for trailers during the pandemic has slowed down the process.
“We’re way behind,” Stephenson said, and noted the maker of the trailer they’re ordering was also shut down for two months. “So they’re catching up.”
He’s hoping the order may be placed by this week, and then expects it will take about ten weeks to arrive.
Hobson’s mother said having the self-contained trailer where her daughter could comfortably live year-round would “mean the world.”
“It would mean a lot,” Ronda said, on the verge of tears. “It just has never felt safe. Every time she left Canada to go south, my heart broke as a mom.”
Ronda said they’re also hoping to find a piece of land where she can set up her home long-term, and added Hobson also plans to prepare her home to be off-grid, in case there are no water or power hookups.