The rent bank

Janet is the person you want in your corner when you’re feeling financially squeezed.

The Big Five Canadian banks all have their wealth managers, but only the District and Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society has its Rent Bank Administrator and Financial Expert. She also does housing support and legal aid extended intake- phew.

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The Rent bank program was started back in 2013 by Janet. She runs the show and holds the keys to success for people seeking a way out of sticky financial situations that can quickly accelerate and snowball into long term financial and social crises.

This is what the rent bank does. They can help you as long as you have a source of income that allows you to make your loan payments - employment insurance, wages or other readily confirmed income.

Let’s say you are a single mom working a full time minimum wage job and you have two kids under the age of 5. Chances are if you are working daytime shifts you’re going to need daycare and that ain’t cheap!

Or maybe this, you are a single female on social assistance waiting to get your Persons with Disabilities (PWD) application approved because you can’t work due to high anxiety and panic attacks. You are receiving $710 monthly assistance. Then something happens that turns your world upside down.

It could be that your hours got cut or you get laid off and then you can’t pay your utilities bills, or maybe your landlord raised your rent and now instead of paying 75% of your monthly assistance check to rent you are now paying 90%. You have nothing left to pay any other bills or buy food. No regular bank will give you the time of day for a loan, but the Rent Bank will.

Janet will take all the time you need and she has lots to offer.

First she understands and is both supportive and empathetic to your situation – she knows the reality of how poverty impacts people’s lives and how the system sometimes works against you. She also knows how financial stress can undermine a person’s capacity to navigate through the complex maze of reestablishing one’s credit and strategizing to pay one’s bills. As long as a person is a willing partner in being transparent and committed to following through on a loan repayment plan to the Rent Bank, Janet will help you find a way to make those (your) promises to repay the loan realistic for you and balanced.

If all the stars align with the application process, then bingo, your immediate financial crisis in part or whole can get resolved. This could mean your overdue utility bills are now caught up, or your partial back rent payment is made and now you’re good to go – but go where The Rent Bank services offer you more than just a loan. The loan is in a sense the band-aid. What is the wound? The source or root problems of poverty and how that leads into financial disarray, stress and chaos for some is a complicated story. 

Suffice it to say, that in today’s capitalist system, it is hard to get out of poverty if you are entrenched. But there is hope for what can feel like an overwhelming and depressive situation. Janet and the Rent Bank are part of that rebuilding and financially restorative process.

Whether it be following through on a loan agreement by taking one on one money management and financial literacy training workshops, getting help with filing taxes, legal assistance to get outstanding child support, negotiating bill payments or accessing more affordable housing – Janet is there for you, but you got to want to be a partner in your financial turn around.

Sometimes things work out very well and sometimes not so. Rent Bank recipients default on loans about 25% of the time – 75% repay. 80% of applicants for Rent Bank assistance are women.

15% are couples. 5% are men. Janet does about 25 loans a year ranging in amounts fro $150-1,500 depending on need and ability to repay.

Over the life of the program she has given out 158 loans totalling about $25,000. Seems like small potatoes, when people get mortgages for $500,000, but being able to keep your heat on or get your kids enough to eat because your not worried about getting evicted for a small back rent payment is absolute $$$ GOLD!

So this takes us back to the big question. Why are so many people in Kamloops in financial turmoil. The answers again aren’t simple but the road signs of what can aggravate and cause a financial crisis are clear- high rents in Kamloops – try and find a decent one bedroom apartment for under $900 utilities not included thank you very much.

Secondly, low paying and unstable employment opportunities (no job security). Kamloops unemployment rate is hovering around 10%. Third, but certainly not the last reason, relationship breakdowns (couples, families, siblings etc.). Nothing is more stressful on relationships than poverty – the gates of hell! Listen, if you can’t see the “financial light at the end of the debt tunnel,” then take my advice and make an appointment with Janet at the Rent Bank.

You’ve got nothing to lo$e, and everything to gain – like your sanity!

© Kamloops This Week

 


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