Bruce Foster isn’t sure what became of the woman who asked for financial help from Sources Rent Bank a couple of weeks ago.
As team lead for the program, Foster answered the phone when the woman called to apply for a short-term micro-loan after receiving an eviction notice from her landlord. The order to vacate was delivered because she had fallen behind on her rent while waiting for medical-leave employment insurance and rental-assistance payments to kick in.
“She needed help to bridge the gap,” Foster said Friday from the rent bank’s Newton-based office. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that. We just don’t have the funding now to help, when normally we would have been helping her. It’s those types of situations that are very difficult.”
The Sources Rent Bank launched in January 2010 to bridge exactly those kinds of gaps, and has met the need many times since – providing 176 loans totalling $147,000 to eligible residents in Surrey, Delta, White Rock, New Westminster and Langley; the funds have helped keep a roof over the heads of more than 400 people.
This year, the rent bank ran out of funds less than halfway through the year.
“There’s been such a need, we maxed out,” said Denise Darrell, Sources’ director of women, seniors and community services.
“We’ve given out all that we can.”
The situation has been dire since mid-May, when the number of loans (47, totalling approximately $37,000) provided in 2013 doubled that given to eligible low-income clients in all of 2012.
Darrell said part of the challenge is that not everyone who receives the micro-loans – they average about $700 each – repays them as required. The main difficulty, however, is the lack of sustained financial support for the program as a whole.
“We’ve had funding before from different banks,” Darrell said. “The issue is being able to maintain this kind of model. You have to have some kind of contingency.”
Darrell said to meet the current need, $75,000 in annual operating funds is required. That amount does not include paying staff (the rent bank operates with one full-time equivalent position), she said.
She pointed to the success of the rent-bank model used in Vancouver, where there is full city support for staffing. Sources Rent Bank – which is also offered at Sources’ new food bank location in South Surrey – receives no funding from the City of Surrey.
Foster said three organizations that have given significant support to Sources Rent Bank in the past have not renewed funding for the upcoming fiscal year, and efforts to recruit additional sources to fill the need have been unsuccessful.
Without more support, “we could do a very small number of loans, but that would be it,” he said.
To get involved or for more information, call 604-547-0123 or visit www.sourcesbc.ca