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Penticton mom, kids facing homelessness after employment disqualifies her from subsidies

With the rise in costs, rent expected to go up, Kandace Sztepanacz can’t make ends meet
Kandace with her kids, age 7 and 11. Kandace works full time at the Penticton hospital and still can’t make ends meet. She worries how she’ll keep a roof over their heads in 2023. (Submitted)

Kandace Sztepanacz is a single mom to two amazing kids, works full-time at the Penticton Regional Hospital and yet, she’s worried about becoming homeless.

With the rise in cost of living, her rent is expected to go up in January and with not getting any child support, Sztepanacz can’t keep up with inflation.

She said she is one of many Penticton single parents that are falling through the cracks because they make too much money to get any help with housing costs.

“I have a good job but I still can’t make ends meet,” she said. “I have had to choose between feeding my kids and keeping the heat on at my house. I don’t understand how the government can be letting this happen to families like mine. I fear that by the end of the year, me and my kids may be living on the streets,” said Sztepanacz who took her concerns to Penticton MLA Dan Ashton.

Sztepanacz applied for B.C.’s rent subsidy but the government factored in her overtime and said she made too much last year to qualify.

“I have been in my home for almost three years now. When I first moved in I had a roommate so it was easier.”

Ashton said her situation is heartbreaking but all too common.

“I get calls from single parents in similar situations,” said Ashton. He planned to bring up Sztepanacz’s plight as an example of the housing crisis next time he was in the legislature.

He said the catch is that she makes too much according to the rules to get any real help from government assistance but the system fails struggling families like hers and punishes people who work.

He said when his government was in power, they helped bring in two affordable housing buildings downtown, but he recognizes those are full of long wait lists. There is a 5-storey affordable housing building going in the 600 block of Main Street but no date has been set when that construction will begin.

READ MORE: 28 affordable housing apartments coming to downtown Penticton

B.C.’s new Premier David Eby has created a new ministry solely devoted to B.C.’s housing crisis.

READ MORE: Eby creates ministry to address housing crisis

There are two rental housing options for low-income families that she knows of, where the wait list is incredibly long, she added. She said even in the more affordable places like the Broadstreet properties rent starts at around $1,600 for a one-bedroom. There are some places in town that are more affordable, but Sztepanacz said she has a bad credit score so they won’t rent to her.

Sztepanacz said she knows of people in their 40s who have moved back with their parents and others who have moved into their cars. She is willing to go public with her situation because this is happening to so many families out there.

Her situation was shared with another media outlet last week and an anonymous woman from Vancouver Island read her story and reached out to help ensure Sztepanacz and her kids have a stress-free Christmas and help pay some bills on top of that.

“An absolutely amazing lady from the Island, and her community got together and sent me something to make my children’s Christmas special and I can not believe it. I have not met someone so kind and sweet,” she said. “I hope one day I will be in a position to pay forward all the kindness she has shown me.”

Sztepanacz is not asking for a handout.

“I did not bring forth my struggle to put light on myself. I did it because I am not the only one who is struggling in this town. We need resources made available to us, we need a city council who cares about their citizens, not silly things like a bike lane. That is why I brought my struggle forward.”

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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