On a snowy day in June, a young woman sits alone on the floor of her apartment in Ottawa, staring at a white-painted picture of a tree, her hands folded under her chin.
The tree is a tribute to a man she doesn’t know: “It’s a great man,” she says.
“But the tree is on my door.”
She smiles, then glances at the doorframe, where the words “Welcome to Ottawa” are scrawled across the door.
The woman’s father, who works at a car wash, doesn’t want his name used for fear that it will cause a panic in the community.
The family has lived in Ottawa for two decades, and is one of more than 40,000 people to move here illegally, often from other parts of the country, to escape the harsh conditions.
But their situation is not unique: In 2016, Canada recorded more than 2,200 “absconders” in the first six months of this year alone.
The numbers are rising, as many of the new arrivals come from the United States, Canada and other parts the world, to Canada and beyond.
While the Canadian government has taken steps to reduce the number of newcomers and asylum seekers arriving by building temporary shelters, the trend is growing.
Last year, more than 6,400 people moved here illegally.
This year, it is expected to reach 7,000.
In Ottawa, where there are many shelters, and in many other Canadian cities, there are now hundreds of thousands of people living illegally.
A few years ago, Ottawa’s shelter population was only about 2,000, but now there are as many as 13,000 shelter beds.
At the moment, it’s the biggest city in the country for the number and type of people who have fled to Ottawa to escape conditions that are beyond their control.
They are not the only ones, either.
In a city where there’s no shortage of restaurants and nightlife, there is also an abundance of social distancing and separation.
For the past several months, a man who calls himself Chris has lived at a temporary shelter called the “Mighty Mile” on the city’s north side.
Chris is from Haiti, a country devastated by the 2010 earthquake.
When the earthquake struck, he was living in a refugee camp.
He moved to Ottawa after his family left Haiti, and the city welcomed him.
He was an Ottawa native who came to Canada to start a business.
In May, Chris decided to move to the city from Haiti.
His wife had recently lost her job and was unable to work full time because she was still living in Haiti.
Chris said he didn’t want to be a burden for his wife, and he didn.
He said the city had been great for him, and his wife felt comfortable and at ease.
She felt safe and at home.
But as time passed, the tension between Chris and his new family started to build.
Chris’ wife left for work and his father-in-law, who lives in the area, was leaving for work.
Chris couldn’t stay at home because he was staying with his mother-inlaw.
Chris began to feel unsafe, Chris said.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t leave my room at night anymore.”
Chris is not the first person to find himself in this situation.
A man from the city who lives at a shelter called The Mighty Mile says he had to leave his house and move into a trailer when he was caught up in a fight with a rival group.
The man said he has to leave to go to work in a different part of town.
The Mighty Metropolis shelter has been a temporary home for people fleeing violence in Haiti, El Salvador and other countries.
(CBC News)In August, more people were moving into The Mighty Meter, a temporary house in Ottawa’s east end.
There are more than 50 people living there now.
The shelter is one location where people who can’t find work in Ottawa or in other parts are turning to The Mighty.
They live there, but are able to access the city for shelter.
The people living in the shelter have found ways to support their families, as well as their businesses.
“They have helped me and my family,” said Sarah McBride, the owner of The Mighty Hotel and Residence in the Ottawa area.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in a city with so many people living here illegally.”
Sarah McBridens son, James, lives at The Mighty, as do his mother and brother.
“He’s a hard worker,” Sarah McBrides son said.
James and Sarah have a daughter, who is attending college in Edmonton.
James is one half of a family of five, and Sarah has been caring for the other half of the family.
Sarah said she is not a shelter mom.
She’s an employee, and she helps with food and childcare.
But, Sarah said, “It is tough.” The