Editor’s note: This story has been updated after the resident told the Now-Leader her power has been cut off.
Lesley Boggan was in a panic Friday morning, after she said BC Hydro service was cut off in her rental suite.
In today’s paper (April 28), the Now-Leader reported on Lesley Boggan’s seemingly hopeless situation.
Her eyes swelled with tears as she explained her family of three may be homeless in a matter of days.
Half-packed moving boxes surrounded Boggan in her Guildford kitchen, where she sat with one of her two puppies.
A broken window covered with a piece of wood behind her.
Along with her 75-year-old mother and young niece, she is facing eviction – but not for reasons one might think.
Boggan, who works at a retail store in Guildford Town Centre, said she has been given notice to vacate her basement suite because a new owner has served her with eviction papers. She must be out by May 1.
Despite her efforts, Boggan hasn’t been able to find a new place to move to in the two months she’s been given. There are two reasons, she explained.
“There’s nothing out there.”
Then there’s the financial reality.
“It’s the damage deposit, it’s hiring somebody to move your furniture, also if you have pets there’s a pet deposit and then your month’s rent.
“Ultimately, it all adds up and for me, personally two months isn’t long enough to find a place and to come up with the funding.”
Boggan said she can’t believe the increase in rental prices. Currently, her family is paying $1,200 a month for their suite, she adds, and they have yet to find anything appropriate in the same price range.
Right now, Boggan lives in a three-bedroom suite with her elderly mom and a young family member they’re caring for.
All three have nowhere to go.
“We’re both trying to find separate places,” said Boggan of her mother.
“We both have animals, so she’s having as much trouble as I am finding something – and finding something affordable.
“She’s on a fixed pension. What happens is it just becomes so overwhelming.”
To make matters worse, Boggan was fearful her power may be shut off early. She showed the Now-Leader a notice from BC Hydro that services were set to be turned off on April 27 (Thursday), despite having paid rent for the month. And on Friday morning, she said it was.
“I don’t want to have to scramble and move into any junk shop. I want something respectable. My mom’s 75 years old, she’s under a lot of stress. I’m sitting in anxiety, continuously. It’s horrible.”
“You feel like you just fell into a hole,” Boggan added. “And I don’t think we’re the only ones. I think there’s a lot of people out there living like this.”
Sadly, this is not an unfamiliar story said Michael Musgrove, executive director or Surrey Urban Mission Society in Whalley.
“We have many guests who are, or have been, on the verge of losing their housing,” said Musgrove.
“They are frightened by the prospect of entering a non-existent affordable housing market. They show me the lowest rentals they can find and they are twice the amount they can afford. This opens the doors for people to exploit the problem and open up single family dwelling to multiple people with no other options.”
He added: “We are in a crisis.”
“The lack of housing puts all the pressure on shelters. Our shelter is full every night and we are turning people away,” he revealed. “Every other shelter I know of is full as well. The Surrey Outreach Team is doing an amazing job and I am proud to be a citizen of a city that has taken a compassionate approach to the crisis we face in this area, but their efforts are hampered by the same things we face. Services are full.”
On Wednesday, Musgrove had a man walk into the mission who was also recently evicted because his landlord is selling the home.
“The good news is that he went to Lookout (Emergency Aid) Society and they helped him and his wife navigate their way to finding a new place, but they are leaving their home of two years. He is distraught because he is worried it is all going to fall apart and they will end up homeless. We hope the new place is as good as the last.”
Surrey Councillor Vera LeFranc said Boggan’s situation is an example of “the very real human costs of lack of housing affordability that are present every day.”
“Housing instability can cause increased poor health through stress and lack of proper nutrition because income is not available to eat properly,” LeFranc said.
She noted the City of Surrey has recently undertaken the research to develop an affordable housing strategy.
“We haven’t seen much affordable rental in Surrey for a while,” said LeFranc.
“The city has allocated land to the Elizabeth Fry Society for affordable housing for women and children. In particular, the population they will serve are those like Lesley and her mother. We know that senior women often have much lower incomes than their male counterparts and are often more vulnerable to homelessness.”
LeFranc said the city has also approved, or have in the pipeline, an additional 346 affordable housing units.
“These will come online in the next few years,” she said, but acknowledged that “this will not even begin to make up the shortfall in affordable units, so our affordable housing strategy will lay out some of the approaches we can take in order to ensure we don’t lose affordable units, and that we are increasing the supply – recognizing that we need federal and provincial partners to make this happen, and that market rental, in partnership with developers, is part of the solution.”
LeFranc noted the unfortunate reality that there’s been a significant rise in homelessness among seniors over the past few years.
“The recent Metro Vancouver homeless count shows almost doubling of seniors homelessness for those over 65, from four to seven per cent, and incremental homelessness increases for 55 to 65 of a year over year two per cent increase,” she said. “This is income-related as housing availability pushes up the price of housing. One study from the U.S. shows that for every $100 median income rises, homelessness increases by 15 per cent.”
And, income and support for those living in extreme examples of poverty have not increased for many years.
“We need to see an immediate increase in the shelter allowance, in the Shelter Aid for elderly Renters (SAFER) and a poverty reduction plan that addresses the income inequality that we’re seeing at an extreme level here in B.C”
But none of those changes will help Boggan, who is days away from homelessness.
LeFranc has reached out to Boggan to try to help connect her to community services, after the Now-Leader put them in touch.
The Now-Leader also shared Boggan’s situation with NDP’s Bruce Ralston, who was her MLA (Surrey-Whalley) before legislation dissolved for the election campaign.
After hearing of her predicament, Ralston said his office called about 20 places, including apartment buildings, hotels and motels.
“This is difficult what’s going on, in a really tough rental market. It’s next to impossible to find,” he said.
“The Liberals are not alive to this at all, they haven’t really done anything.”