Most people don’t think they will ever be homeless. Certainly, no one plans or wants to be homeless. But sometimes, something out of your control happens and you find yourself on the cusp of losing your home.
That’s what happened to Nick Seguin. At 26 years old, Nick was living on his own in a basement suite in Surrey, working at a call centre and taking classes for school. He never missed a payment on his rent, until June 2014, when he suddenly got sick.
Nick couldn’t go to work and was put on short-term disability leave. When he was supposed to be switched over to his insurance, he was denied. Without a source of income, he couldn’t pay his $600 rent or afford food. He used the food bank for the first time in his life. June passed, then July, then August.
“We’re talking like three months now that I hadn’t gotten a dime from anywhere,” Nick said.
In September, Nick went to a welfare office, and was told he didn’t qualify for welfare, medical employment insurance (EI) or regular EI.
“I was so upset because everything and every corner was a dead end. The [welfare worker] told me, ‘You’re falling in the cracks. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do for you.’”
But before Nick left, they gave him one last hope – “something called Rent Bank.”
Reaching Out to the Rent Bank
When Nick got home, he went on the Internet and found the Sources Rent Bank. He spoke with Bruce Foster, the Rent Bank coordinator, and explained his situation.
“I was emotional. I was crying because I didn’t know what to do,” Nick said.
By that time, Nick’s landlord had told him he had 15 days to provide the $1,800 rent he owed; otherwise, he would be evicted.
Nick met with Bruce at the Sources Newton Resource Centre in Surrey. After listening to his story, Bruce told Nick that the Rent Bank could only loan a maximum of $1,200. Nick said he would speak to his landlord about it.
By then it was October and Nick owed four months of rent. Luckily, his landlord was sympathetic and waived that month to keep his debt at $1,800. It still didn’t fit within the Rent Bank’s criteria, but Bruce thought it was promising. He told Nick to get a signed letter from his landlord promising she won’t evict him even if the Rent Bank can’t give the full $1,800 that he owed. Nick would pay off the remaining $600 in monthly payments of $75 for eight months.
His landlord agreed. Bruce would take their proposal to a committee.
The Rent Bank’s Response
A couple of weeks passed and then Bruce called Nick. He was approved for $1,200! The Rent Bank would release $400 immediately; the other $800 would come later.
Nick froze. Only $400? “I’m going to be evicted anyways,” he blurted. “When my landlord signed the paperwork, she was saying yes to $1,200.”
Nick understood the Rent Bank’s point of view, though—loans were risky. Too many people who need money borrow and never pay it back. But Nick was persistent.
“You can trust me, Bruce. Let me see if my landlord is willing to drop another $600 so that we can stay at $1,200.”
With his plan in mind, Nick approached his landlord and told her the situation. After discussing with her husband, she told Nick they wanted to help him and were willing to go with his proposal–to cut his amount owing to $1,200. Nick told Bruce the good news and brought him their new contract.
“That week, Bruce calls me to say that I was approved for $1,200 and they’re going to be giving me the full amount.”
Everything was in order. The cheque for $1,200 would be ready in a week. Repayment would begin after one month. Nick would have 18 months to pay off the full loan. Joy and relief rushed over Nick.
“FINALLY! Finally, I have something to help me,” Nick said. “We turned the page for that.”
The story doesn’t end there. Nick did something no client has ever done before for the Rent Bank. As soon as he was back to work, Nick asked for overtime hours, working 60 to 70 hours a week.
“I was putting all my money aside. I told my work I had to do this to pay off the debt that I owe.”
When he had the money, Nick got his bank to write him a single cashier’s cheque for $1,200. It was mid-November, just over a week before Nick’s first payment was due. He went to see Bruce.
“When I see him, he asks me, ‘Hey, how are things?’ And I say, ‘They’re good. I think they’re great, actually. And all because of you guys. I wanted to give you this.’” Nick handed Bruce the cheque. “He’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ and I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve been working hard because I really wanted to show you guys how much I appreciated everything you did for me, and you know, he couldn’t believe it. I still hadn’t even given my first payment, and that was done.”
Now, Nick is back at working his normal 18 hours per week.
“It was so worth doing it,” Nick said. “I wanted to show my appreciation that Rent Bank took my case, you know, heard me, heard my cries for help, and they did something to help me. I didn’t want it to affect them that they helped me.”
“No one’s ever paid so fast,” Bruce said. “Nick was a unique client. He owed $2,400, so he didn’t fit the parameters of the program. But he was able to discuss with his landlord to waive two months’ rent so we could give him a loan for the other two months. That negotiation between landlord and tenant is what’s ideal, and what happened with Nick is a model situation where we help them to help themselves with the landlord and create mutual supports.”