Kamloops rent bank opens in February
When Kamloops' new rent bank opens its doors in February, it will be the fifth organization of its kind in B.C.
Tangie Genshorek, a co-ordinator with the Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan, believes it won't be the last.
The rent bank, which will operate out of the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society office at 827 Seymour St., offers one-time loans for rent or utility payments to those in the city with no access to other forms of financial aid.
"No bank will lend them money, they don't qualify for EI, they'd have to sell their car maybe to qualify for welfare," Genshorek said. "These things aren't an option."
Genshorek said the rent bank is targeting the working poor — people with stable jobs who are "just living really close to the edge and living paycheque to paycheque" and whose finances may be thrown off by an unexpected illness or other emergency.
The loans, which go directly to the landlord or utility company, can bridge the gap, Genshorek said, and keep people with otherwise stable lives from falling into homelessness.
To qualify for a loan, applicants must meet with rent bank co-ordinator Janet Bakke and go over their bank statements.
"So, Janet will look through your bank statements with you and talk about your banking situation and how things are going for you financially, and see if there are any other options besides the rent bank," Genshorek said.
"If anyone qualifies for income assistance, or employment insurance, or CPP, anything like that, they won't qualify for a rent-bank loan. But, the administrator will help them connect with those supports."
Since plans for the rent bank were announced last year, Genshorek said she has had plenty of interest from both applicants and members of the public interested in donating to it.
"I think a lot of people recognize this need," she said. "The working poor, they're not addressed in any other way. There's a gap, a real gap in supports out there."
The rent bank also has funding from the Kelson Group ($5,000), the Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way ($3,000), the Interior Savings Community Investment Fund ($6,928) and the Edmonton-based Stollery Charitable Foundation ($27,000).
But, Genshorek said, she's seeking more funds for the bank.
"The need is pretty high. With that amount of money, we can only really help a couple families a month this year," she said.
Ideally, Genshorek hopes to see the B.C. government step forward and fund rent banks across the province, as is the practice in Ontario.
"That's the big pie-in-the-sky dream," she said. "But, it happened in Ontario, so I don't see why it can't happen here. They saw the need and stepped forward. So, we're next, as far as I can see."