At Christmas time, the need for extra support becomes increasingly apparent for many Calgary families. Many are barely making ends meet with their regular expenses, and with bills already piling up, the thought of budgeting for gifts and a special holiday meal seems like an impossible task.
This past Christmas season, Closer to Home’s community of donors stepped up to support a record number of families through Adopt-a-Family, presented by McQuiston Executive Wealth Group.
“The increased need in our city is substantial,” says Karen Olivier, Closer to Home’s Chief Executive Officer. “More families are struggling, but there are fewer initiatives like this out there where support can be accessed.”
More than 1,900 people came to Closer to Home for help in 2017, nearly a 20% spike from the previous year. Some are struggling with basic needs like food and shelter, such as the single dad who is injured and cannot work, or the family of four who don’t quite qualify for government assistance despite taking a $20,000 hit to their income when Mom lost her job this year.
Many of these families first connect with our West Central Community Resource Centre (WCCRC), through Adopt-a-Family, other community programs like Women’s Group or Homework Club, or simply by walking in.
Staff at the WCCRC are trained to help families with a variety of situations that could put them in crisis, such as job loss, illness, family violence, divorce, home evictions and more. Many newcomers to Canada also come for support connecting with their new community and getting a positive start.
When Jeff* walked in to Closer to Home, he had a difficult time asking for help. As a single dad with three kids, he works hard to provide for his family. He’d never had to ask for help before. Jeff works full-time in retail, but his income isn’t sufficient to meet all of his family’s needs. When his hours were cut at work, he was forced to put his home on the market to try to stay above water.
In order to qualify for subsidies with programs like the City of Calgary’s Fair Entry Program, which helps families access critical services such as the low-income transit pass and recreation fee assistance, a family of four like Jeff’s must make no more than $46,362 per year.
Jeff’s salary is slightly above this threshold, which means he does not qualify for assistance. But after taxes, mortgage and utility payments, groceries and other bills, he has almost nothing left for things like taking his kids to the dentist, lunchroom or field trip fees, recreation expenses or saving for his children’s futures.
“It can be so challenging for families like Jeff’s,” says Laura Eeles, Family Support Worker at Closer to Home. “They are educated and employed, but due to circumstances out of their control, they end up being stuck in this sort of limbo.”
“Their income isn’t low enough to qualify for supports, but they’re struggling every month living paycheque to paycheque,” she continues. “They try to be proactive – like seeking help for utility payments before a disconnection notice – but still end up at risk of financial crisis due to the lack of early intervention resources. It’s like they have to hit rock bottom before they qualify for many supports.”
With everyday expenses continuing to pile up and utility bills rising through the last cold months of winter, families like Jeff’s need early intervention and prevention programs and resources that help them avoid crisis.
You can help.
Make a donation today. Your gift will support Closer to Home programs like the West Central Community Resource Centre and its Family Assistance Fund, which provides emergency supports for families who are facing potential crisis.
*Name changed to protect privacy