72, on a pension, and facing eviction

Date 24 Mar, 2023

Imagine being 72, on a pension, and suddenly being evicted from your home of 11 years. What would you do?

As part of our eviction-mapping project, we recently spoke to a woman on Vancouver Island who was exactly in that position:

“It’s been horrible. I’ve never had to do this before. I’ve been here for 11 years. I love this place, I love the neighbourhood, I love [my neighbour] downstairs. But getting the eviction notice was a total shock. 

Mentally, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I was going on the computer for an hour a day looking through rental listings. There’s a ton out there but there’s absolutely nothing I can afford.

I was a teacher in the public schools in the Lower Mainland, I taught home economics. I worked all my life.

My mom used to ask me when she was alive ‘why do people become homeless? How can that happen?’ She was of the mind that they get addicted to drugs, or they’re abused and this kind of thing.

But I said ‘Mom, it can happen to anybody’. She had a hard time accepting that. There is that old way of thinking, but things have changed so drastically in terms of housing costs that it’s much more common. As I say, it can happen to anyone. It’s happening to me! I’m old, I’m a widow, and there’s an awful lot of people in the same boat without big bank accounts or property to sell off.”

This woman (whose name we’re withholding for privacy) lives on Vancouver Island and hasn’t accessed our services directly, but her story familiar.

For people in the Downtown Eastside, there are even more barriers to getting back on their feet. We see a lot of people who do have substance use and mental health challenges, or who have been abused. And the rental market is even more dire in Vancouver.

“My rent is $872, hydro and gas included. Similar places would cost me $1,600-$1,800 a month, not including hydro or gas.

I just can’t do it. My income is around $2,000.

It would leave me no money for food or anything. For me, it’s impossible.”

She didn’t cause her eviction, her landlord wanted to move her family into the unit. But where does that leave her when the system is so broken?

For those in the DTES, they come to FIRST UNITED.

We provide shelter, food, legal support with evictions, and so much more. Our staff have heard this story many times.

We don’t want people to just scrape by every day. We want our neighbours to thrive.

And with new programs like our eviction-mapping project and law reform we’re working to change the system and to prevent homelessness.

The thing is, we can only do that with your help.

The only way we can help our neighbours in the DTES thrive is with the support of donors like you.

Donate Now: This Easter we need to raise $50,000 for our ongoing work in the DTES

Your gift will go to our programs and services, meeting people’s basic needs and supporting systems change work to prevent homelessness.

This woman’s story is just one of thousands. Every day, more people are facing struggle, poverty, and homelessness in BC. In the Downtown Eastside, we’re doing everything we can to help however we can. We need you to join us so we can keep going.

“I’m really glad you’re doing this eviction project. And I hope there’s a way to get the government actually doing something about this, too. People like my mom need a better picture of who this is happening to. Life happens. And you can end up in my situation.”

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