SUPER LOW INCOME: What families on the financial brink are up against in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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SUPER LOW INCOME: What families on the financial brink are up against in Kamloops


Kamloops resident Jennifer Adams is a long-time advocate for her community and those who are struggling financially to get by.

With a background working as a street outreach worker, Adams spent the past year and a half working as a housing coordinator with the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society.

She was recently laid off from that position, and while she isn’t clear on the details of the lay-off, she is clear about the struggles families on the financial brink are going through on a daily basis in order to survive.

“There are numerous families living in motel rooms with one broken van or one unexpected bill away from losing their housing and kids,” Adams said.

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She worked primarily with families and seniors who are barely avoiding homelessness, a level of poverty she called “super low income.”

“We have supports for the homeless, they know how to navigate the city to find food and shelter,” she said. “There isn’t as much for families living on the brink who are new to homelessness, or are fleeing violence and are now at risk of putting kids into foster care to get by.

“Some lose their housing and kids and some turn to drugs to cope. Now they have no child tax, they can’t pay for a storage unit, they lose all of their belongings and are left with few supports to get housing.”

Adams' job included helping families secure housing by subsidizing rent costs and damage deposits, helping with referrals for taxes and paperwork, connecting families to counselling and a family preservation team and stepping in to prevent evictions.

“Families were calling for help when they’d get that extra bill and through funding we could provide help, stop evictions and keep them together. We know the points of contacts to help them navigate crisis.”

While Adams was able to help stabilize and secure housing for numerous families through the program, getting people referred to subsidized housing was challenging. There is a limited supply of subsidized units available in the city, and subsidies from agencies can run out leaving families facing eviction.

“I had to send a lot of families out of the city because of a lack of housing and resources, it isn’t uncommon.”

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Adams said there is a spike in the number of seniors becoming street entrenched.

“Some seniors are not being taken into shelters because they’re health conditions are too complex for shelter workers to look after,” she said. “There are resources for seniors but accessing them is a problem. Seniors need friendly spaces and help to get those resources.”

Part of Adam’s job was advocating for Indigenous families. She said there are huge barriers for Indigenous people, including racism.

“We saw over and over large families with one sober elder taking in relatives and now having custody over eight children. You have seniors looking after all these kids, how are they supposed to get by? We’re preserving the family unit by not fostering out but now they’re entrenched in poverty.

“Multiple times over the course of my work I was in contact with families who negotiated rentals but when they showed up and were visibly Indigenous were not given the housing. We have to advocate for Indigenous families.”

There are many reasons why some people and families find themselves in a financial and housing crisis. Adams worked with women fleeing violence who were bouncing from shelter to shelter, often without money or their banking information, left behind when they fled.

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Others have employment insurance claims and are in a waiting period for the money to come in, and still others are trying to survive on income assistance.

“Without more continuous subsidy people on income assistance run out of money and are evicted again. Motels will kick out a tenant and that tenant will need another damage deposit for the next place. Rental subsidies are often short term, if they access one short term subsidy and their income doesn’t change, they’ll need another one.

“There is no easy fix, it’s a huge problem, either crisis supports have to be there or a provision of a basic income would solve it.”

Adams is concerned about the families who were reaching out to the program for help, as often these families will be stable for months but need more help to stay on their feet from time to time.

“We were working in collaboration with other agencies to advocate for these families to help secure and save them from evictions. This program was geared toward families more than street entrenched folks.”

She said families in need can access the Elizabeth Fry Rent Bank, or Interior Community Services or Ask Wellness.

“I think it’s important to bring some awareness to what some families are going through. Many of us don’t have deep pockets and money saved up, things like an illness or a lost job can happen and we’ll be in the same position.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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