Community

MCC offers rent assistance program

Jane Njogu of MCC
Jane Njogu of MCC's Fraser Valley Rent Assistance Project.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The leap from homeowner to homeless can be a lot shorter than one might think. All it takes is a few unfortunate events and one or two bad choices to find yourself in the place where Annette recently found herself.

Despite living with the debilitating effects of Crohn’s disease for nearly two decades, Annette was able to hold down a full-time job as legal administrative assistant.

She even bought a home. Then, following a very serious car accident in 2004, her health took an even bigger turn for the worse.

“I had eight surgeries in 11 years, all directly or indirectly related to my Crohn’s,” she explains. “I began to experience depression after the first surgery in 1999.”

Her depression became debilitating. Combined with the surgeries, the Crohn’s and severe chronic back pain from the accident, she had barely enough energy to get through a day of work.

She became isolated, spending more and more time alone without friends, with little family support. To cope with the depression and loneliness, she would shop but the feeling of happiness that shopping gave her didn’t last.

“I’d bring my bags home, throw them in a corner and not even take the things out of the bag,” she says. “They’d sit there for months.”

It became a vicious cycle. As her physical and mental health declined, her debts escalated. Soon her limited income couldn’t keep up with her expenses and the bank came calling.

“I feel I was callously treated,” she says. “I had a small amount overdue. I had been making my payments up to that point, but the bank still chose to foreclose on my mortgage.”

Suddenly, Annette was faced with homelessness. Just when she seemed at her lowest point, her miracles began to happen.

Annette knew that she needed to get her financial house in order, so she began looking for resources.

She met Jane Njogu at a financial literacy workshop. Jane works for Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) Fraser Valley Rent Assistance Project (FVRAP), which provides one-time emergency loans for people who are facing homelessness. As Annette shared her story with Jane, it became clear that FVRAP could help.

“Annette’s story shows that hard times can fall on any one of us and how important is it to know that the Rent Assistance Project can help by building a bridge and preventing homelessness,” Jane says. “Financial literacy counselling is an education component for our clients as well as referrals to other resources in the community.”

Annette enrolled in financial literacy classes and started looking for a place to rent.

She also checked the part-time employment section on craigslist and saw an ad for a live-in building manager.

Although the physical aspects of the job were daunting, Annette decided to take a chance and apply. Within days of sending in her resume, she had a double miracle: a job and a home. Annette says she’d never be in this position if it wasn’t for Jane.

“I’ve been in some dark places. I’ve thought of suicide,” she says, fighting back tears. “Jane has been a great listener. She’s compassionate and understanding and she took a chance on me. She thought I would be worth helping.”

FVRAP was able to provide Annette with a loan for her security deposit and her first month’s rent. Jane says it’s important to help people help themselves.

“The Rent Assistance Project allows the individual to manage their own housing stability instead of relying on overcrowded shelters and long waitlists for affordable housing,” she says.

Knowing that she has this security is a big relief and has given Annette renewed hope for her future.

“I am looking forward to being productive and useful again,” she says. “I know it’s going to be hard but I’m going to do it. I can’t ignore my miracle and let it fall apart.”

For more information about the MCC Fraser Valley Rent Assistance Project, visit http://bc.mcc.org/whatwedo/fvrap or call Jane at 604-850- 6639 or toll-free at 1-888-622-6337.

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