When most of us are looking for an apartment to live in, we don’t worry about how we’ll obtain furniture or even if we’ll be accepted as tenants. We have credit history, past landlord references and everything we need to make a home. Our housing workers, Marc and Linda, work with young people who face multiple barriers to finding suitable places to live. Recently, they worked with a young couple, Gina and Scot, whose “home” was a dilapidated SRO (single room occupancy) room in the Downtown Eastside. Gina and Scot wanted to get away from the drugs and the violence and the chaos. Gina and Scot had fled dysfunctional families. Gina had stayed in our Crisis Program a few times and both she and Scot were without family support. They had found each other but needed to find an apartment to live in, however, both of them were on Income Assistance, as many homeless people are. They wanted to improve their lives and they felt that doing so would be difficult without finding a safe place to live. They reached out to Marc and Linda who immediately got to work.
Marc and Linda talked with them about their budget and employment goals. This helped to determine how much they could afford to pay in rent and narrowed the search to ideal locations near transit. Gina and Scot were coached on how to call a landlord, what to ask and how to set up viewing times. Our van was used to escort them to apartment viewings. During the drives, they talked openly about their hopes and dreams. Scot had been out of work for the past few weeks due to a slow period and Gina was working temporary labour jobs but wanted something permanent. They admitted being nervous that landlords might judge them because they were receiving income assistance.
After many viewings, the hard work paid off and we helped them find a place— a lovely one bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a house. The landlord was amazing, offering everyone snacks and drinks while the tenancy agreement was being filled out. On move in day Marc and Linda provided Scot and Gina with a start-up kit consisting of plates and bowls, cups, cutlery, towels and bedding and almost everything that is needed to turn a house into a home. Furniture was obtained from St. Vincent de Paul and Marc and Linda introduced them to their local food bank. They know they can call for housing support or life skills enhancement such as budgeting, meal planning, and cooking skills or just about anything else—anytime.
When the couple was living in the Downtown Eastside they were using drugs and alcohol to cope with their dire situation. Now, they are both free from drugs and alcohol and have built a new community around their church. Gina has completed a training program and Scot is working full time in a job he loves. It is often said that home is where the heart is. Gina and Scot now have a home they love, a life they are proud of and a future that excites them—including having Marc and Linda for tea which they recently arranged.