With the possibility of becoming homeless for the first time in her life staring her in the face, Catherine Sas is feeling hopeless and is very frustrated.
Sas, who is 60 years old and lives in Lake Cowichan, has been residing in a two-bedroom condo with her daughter for years, but her daughter is planning on moving out, which leaves Sas unable to cover the rent of $975 per month by herself.
She lives on a fixed income of $1,139 per month from the Canada Pension Plan disability benefit, and her expenses every month before food, gas and other necessities are even considered is $1,400.
Sas said she has been advised to get another room mate, but she’s in precarious physical health requiring a number of surgeries and has a small dog, so finding a room mate is not an easy solution for her.
She has also been told to find another place to live that she can afford, but there are very few accommodations available as the region is experiencing a housing crisis, and what is available is well over $1,000 for a single-bedroom apartment.
“I only pay $975 a month now because the landlord knows I’m a good tenant and wants to help me out, but he could be getting a lot more for my condo,” she said.
“I’ve put my name on a wait list for accommodations at BC Housing, but I’m told I could be waiting for more than two years before anything will come from that, and I was told by community services in Lake Cowichan that all they could offer me is a tent. I’ve contacted local politicians and various government ministries, and I keep getting passed from one to another and going in circles with no one seeming to be able to do anything to help unless I’m homeless first. It’s very frustrating.”
Sas said she has been working to try to find solutions for her dilemma for five months and is now running out of hope that she won’t soon be homeless.
The Office of the Premier did reply to a letter Sas sent explaining her situation and asking for help by stating a number of initiatives the NDP government has implemented to help renters find and/or keep suitable accommodations.
They include lowering the annual allowable rent increase formula in the province by two per cent, providing funding for rent banks in the 2019 budget that provides short-term loans with little to no interest to low-income tenants who can’t pay their rent due to a financial crisis, and introduced a comprehensive housing plan focused on creating long-term solutions to the housing affordability crisis.
But the response didn’t offer any solutions specifically for Sas
“We recognize that there is still work to be done, and we will continue taking steps to make meaningful, long-term improvements to housing affordability in B.C.,” the letter from the Office of the Premier concluded.
Sonia Furstenau, MLA for the Cowichan Valley, said that while she can’t discuss the specifics of Sas’s case, her office has been in correspondence with various provincial ministries about Sas’s predicament and on affordable housing in the region, and across B.C., in general.
“We’re generally seeing more people at risk of becoming homeless and that’s a big concern,” she said.
“It’s hard on these individuals, and it’s a lot harder to rehouse someone once they have lost their homes than supporting them while they are still in their homes. I hope the government will not allow people to become homeless because of lack of supports. We need a more urgent sense from the government that they intend to take immediate steps to help people who are struggling.”
But Furstenau said she has not heard anything concrete back from the ministries that were contacted on the issue.
“I hope solutions can be found for these issues, and we’ll keep trying,” she said.