You wouldn’t think life could get much worse for Luayne Barber.
The 60-year-old has been bed-ridden for the past year-and-a-half in her apartment in Abbotsford, where she lives with her son and daughter, who both have disabilities.
But on Oct. 31, the family is facing eviction, because the apartment’s owner wants to move in.
Barber isn’t mad at her landlord — he has given her family two years to find a new place. But so far, their search has been fruitless.
They have found and applied for two apartments in social housing complexes, but haven’t able to get in, because there is high demand and the complexes chose other applicants.
So Barber scours online ads, desperately seeking a place they can afford with their $1,125 monthly shelter allowance ($375 per person) from the provincial Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
“We can’t believe it has taken this long,” said Barber. “I am on Zumper, Craigslist and Rentals.ca every day, checking. I’ve even looked as far off as Fort St. John. The problem isn’t the location, the problem is the money. There is nowhere out there right now that you can get a two-plus bedroom for $1,125 a month. It does not exist.”
Dalton Finlay has been working with the family as part of the Right Fit program.
“We help connect wheelchair users to accessible vacancies throughout the Lower Mainland,” explained Finlay, who is with the Individualized Funding Resource Centre Society.
“(But) the cost of vacancies is usually too high for people to afford. It’s supply and demand — there’s never enough (apartments available). There’s a four-per-cent turnover rate of vacancies in a year, so accessible vacancies just don’t come available.
“And when they do, (the units) have such specific criteria — you have to be of a certain age, you have to have a certain income, no pets allowed — a couple of opportunities didn’t work for (the family).”
None of the family is able to work because of their health issues. So they scrimp by on the $1,400 disability payments they each get monthly, including the $375 shelter allowance.
Barber and her family have been living in their apartment on George Ferguson Way for 18 years. It has had an ongoing mould issue, and has been sold four times in recent years.
Barber’s health problems started about 25 years ago, when she had a heart attack.
“It did some damage to the lower left portion of my heart,” she explained. “At the same time, it was discovered then that I had diabetes. Ever since then, it’s been complications from both of those illnesses.”
She hasn’t been able to walk in four years. Initially, she was able to lift herself from her bed to a wheelchair, but the pain in her legs has become so severe she hasn’t been able to do it for a year-and-a-half.
Both her 39-year-old son and 37-year-old daughter suffer from a muscle-degenerative disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome.
“My son Donald is wheelchair bound, has been since he was four,” she said. “My daughter, her (disease) is extremely bad on your arms and she can’t hold up anything. She has a scooter (but) she has no balance, the disease has robbed her of that. It’s very challenging.”
Their landlord, Rob Lopez, feels for their plight. Lopez has been living in a trailer park near Cultus Lake, but it closes for the winter and he has to be out by Nov. 1.
He looked for another place to rent himself, but couldn’t find anything. So he served an eviction notice.
“The last thing I want to do to anybody is push them onto the street,” he said. “(So) I’ve made contingency plans. I have somewhere to stay until we figure it out.”
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