“Thank you for the gift you gave us this coming year. You made our lives less challenging during these difficult times. We are very grateful for your help and support. We have just received the cheque from you. Thank you so much for all you are doing for our family.” – A beneficiary of Tikva Housing Society’s Esther Dayson Rent Subsidy Program
Sukkot is a holiday when we think about how fragile and exposed our lives can be without a proper roof over our heads. For many families in our community, living in a temporary shelter is not a short-term symbolic choice for the holidays; it is their permanent reality. Tikva Housing Society helps individuals and families pay their rent through a growing rent subsidy program.
The program began in 2011, when the board approved a subsidy for an individual who could not be housed at Tikva’s Dany Guincher House because there was a shortage of available units. Later that year, the Ben and Esther Dayson Charitable Foundation made a commitment to fund a rent subsidy program that would allow Tikva to extend its portfolio by housing people in private market units. The program thus became the Esther Dayson Rent Subsidy Program and grew large enough to subsidize seven households. In 2013, the Tikva fund subsidized three single and four family households for a total of 19 persons.
Since October 2011, Tikva has been involved in a Richmond development to administer 10 family apartments and, since December 2012, it’s been involved in Vancouver in a development of 32 townhouse units. As construction can take years to complete and the need for affordable housing is immediate, Tikva’s board decided to put greater emphasis into fundraising for the rent subsidy program. In 2014/15, with additional help from donors (such as the PAID Foundation and the Al Roadburg Foundation), Tikva will be able to house nine singles and eight families for a total of 39 persons.
During August and September 2014, the committee received 44 applications referred through the Jewish Family Service Agency, synagogues and Jewish day schools. All applications were point scored to determine the highest need. The top 20 applicants were interviewed. To date, agreements have been signed with 12 applicants. Of the 20 applicants interviewed, four singles and one family were homeless. The subsidy will allow all those funded to look for appropriate rental units to call home.
You may wonder what sort of poverty issues the 44 applicants for Tikva’s rent subsidy program experience. Here is a sampling of some of their stories.
Five of the applicants are homeless, living on the street, in shelters and couch surfing. One of the homeless applicants is a single father with three children who arrived in Vancouver in April 2013 after losing all they had during flooding in Saskatchewan. The Esther Dayson Rent Subsidy Program allowed this family to move out of the shelter where they were living and move into a three-bedroom apartment. The children will now be enrolled in the nearby school and the father will be able to look for work in the community.
A single woman moved to British Columbia from Alberta and does not meet the one-year residency requirement to apply for government rental assistance. Rents in Greater Vancouver are much higher than in Lethbridge, and her $1,100 pension barely allows her to pay $750 for rent, while leaving only $350 for all of her other expenses.
Another family of two parents and two small children lives in Surrey. They were relying solely on a disability pension after the husband was injured in a work-related accident that left him paralyzed. The wife looks after her husband and their small children and, therefore, cannot work outside the home.
While spending a cool evening in the sukkah, remember how important it is for each and every person to have the warmth and stability of his/her own home. For more information about the Tikva Housing rent subsidy program or to donate, visit tikvahousing.ca.
Susan J. Katz is a freelance writer, pastoral-care consultant and musician living in Vancouver. Her website is susanjkatz.com.