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A relieved Sharon Meade and her husband, Gerry De Abreu, outside the Halton Region campground they found that would accept them in the midst of the COVID-19 scare.

Sharon Meade and her husband, Gerry De Abreu, thought they were doing the right thing when they packed up their RV and began the journey from Arizona back to their home base in the greater Toronto area (GTA) of Ontario, according to the CBC.

The snowbirds were heeding the federal government’s call for Canadians to return home from the U.S. and isolate themselves, in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency.

But as they neared the border last week, one problem became increasingly clear: They had nowhere to go.

The couple’s Scarborough condo is currently occupied by Meade’s elderly mother. Under normal circumstances, they return to the GTA much later in the year, and stay at private campgrounds, which — she has now discovered — don’t normally operate this early in the year.

And Meade is not alone. Alexandra Anderson, executive director of Camping in Ontario, a trade group that represents private campgrounds, said her group has received word that “hundreds, possibly thousands” of stranded RVers who have no brick-and-mortar residences have been calling campgrounds all around the province, looking for vacancies.

“I called RV parks in Toronto, in Hamilton; I called an RV park in Kitchener.” Meade said last week. “Either they’re not open or they’re open and they’re already full.”

Part of the problem is that the vast majority of the province’s 420 or so private campgrounds are prohibited by municipal statute from opening for the season until May, according to Anderson.

And the few that do operate year-round have not been listed as essential services by the province, so it’s unclear whether they’d be allowed to take in new travelers now.

Anderson said her organization has been in contact with the provincial government, and hopes to get more clarification on whether her campgrounds should be added to the list of essential services.

A spokesperson for the ministry of economic development wouldn’t agree to an interview with CBC Toronto, but said in a statement: “We know this all moved very quickly but given the gravity of the situation and how quickly things are changing, the government had to take action.

“For people that are looking for temporary lodging, item No. 12 on the list exempts hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities, including student residences.”

Provincial parks — another potential refuge for people like Meade and her family — are closed until April 30 at the earliest, the statement reads.

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