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Finding a Family: One Senior’s Experience of Poverty

By Sophie Wooding

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission provides support and community to seniors who may have fallen through the cracks of the system.

When Brian first came to Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, he was recovering from an accident where he’d broken both his legs. He hadn’t been able to walk for three months! During that time, he was hospitalized and then in a rehabilitation program. When he was released from the hospital, he returned home to find that he’d been evicted.

All of his belongings had been thrown out. So he had nothing, and nowhere to sleep. At 71 years old, he found himself homeless, with no place to go. He walked to the closest motel and checked in, but he was only on a limited senior’s pension, so his funds soon ran dry.

Thankfully though, while staying at the motel, Brian had been able to find a room for cheap rent. He moved from the hotel to his new home, but that too was short-lived. After just six months, the police showed up at his door to evict him. It was only then that he discovered that his landlord had failed to make his mortgage payments. The bank had foreclosed on his property while he was using Brian’s rent payments on alcohol and drugs.

The police were kind enough to tell Brian about Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and so, although he had many reservations, he went there next.

Once Brian got here, he was surprised to find how quickly he made new and true friends. He was always pleasant and his smile would light up the room when he saw his friends. He realized that he’d been living for many years without a support system, and that he needed one! Our staff here at the Mission were very supportive and helped him get back on track. They became his family.

In particular, his caseworker Terra encouraged him to get back on his feet, and she continues to support him today—along with the rest of the Mission staff through their prayers.

With the help of his new support network, Brian was able to find a new place to live with dignity and respect. He was feeling tired before he experienced the care of Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, and was wondering what the point of everything was. But now, he’s looking forward to living the rest of his life, together with the new friends and family that he has gained.

“I still go back to the Mission regularly, just to enjoy a coffee while catching up with my friends,” he says. “I am deeply thankful to Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and everyone who helped me turn my life around and held hope for me, even though I’m 71!”

Brian is not an anomaly at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. In fact, we have several seniors who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, because they’ve fallen through the cracks of the system.

Accessing services and housing is already very difficult for people who have been struggling with poverty. And the transition of becoming a senior just adds further complications. Some of the typical obstacles include getting an assessment through continuing care that will set them up with further resources, navigating electronic forms to access government agencies, and finding a family doctor who will treat according to a care plan.

By coming alongside seniors in need, we’re able to offer community—the missing piece that provides wholeness in the lives of elderly people who have lost many loved ones. We’re lending additional support and awareness to issues that seniors face as we welcome them into our programs. But there are still too many seniors experiencing poverty in our community, so we have a lot of work left to do!

Sophie Wooding is an author living in Victoria, BC. She currently writes for Frontier Marketing Company and a variety of charitable organizations and businesses spread across Canada. She recently co-wrote Saving Farmland: The Fight for Real Food.

*Reprint from our Seniors Health 2016/2017 Issue

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