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Duluth woman says lack of affordable housing and health condition forced her into homelessness

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Duluth has battled a well-documented housing shortage for years now. It's why affordable housing is one of the biggest topics on the city's Imagine Duluth 2035 Comprehensive Plan. 

Still, for those searching for a place to live now, the lack of options can range from frustrating... to nearly *impossible.

This time last year, Christie Gingles said she was living in her family home.

"Then I just got sicker and sicker and sicker and my doctors had no idea why," she said.

Eventually, she said she learned the culprit was mold.

"It got to the point where we were so ill physically that on August 24th I said, 'We've gotta get out of here. We're gonna die. This house is killing us.'"

With only a part time job and no homeowner's insurance, Gingles said she couldn't afford to re-mediate the home in the short term, so she had to find a place to rent -- no easy task in Duluth's housing market.

"I can't afford $600 a month for a studio apartment," she said.

After months of searching and applying for assistance, Gingles was able to get a grant to help her pay for a deposit and first month's rent. But once she moved in, things didn't get any better.

"I lasted a week."

She said that apartment had the same mold as her old home, and was making her sick once again.

She said she had to give up the lease and the grant money that helped pay for it.

With few options in her price range, and sensitivity to mold that's ruled out a number of homes, Gingles said she's had to improvise.

"The front of my jeep is my kitchen," she said through a short tour of her new home.

For the past five months, she's made been living in her car. 

"Storage is very, very limited," she said.

Recently, she's been able to park in her neighbor's garage through the cold temperatures, but she said with them heading out of town soon, she's afraid she's running out of time.

"I'm literally terrified that we're gonna freeze to death," she said.

Gingles said she's currently in touch with a few people about renting a room, but fears mold others can tolerate might drive her out on the streets yet again.

"Nobody in the city of Duluth should be forced into homelessness," she said.

Gingles says she has contacted several of the city's agencies, including Mayor Larson's office for help, but given her sensitivity to certain mold types, solutions have been few and far between. 

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