Families trapped by poverty

Salmon Arm: Residents struggle to meet increasing budget pressures.

Searching for shelter: Sonja Dye and Stephen Vanderkroft stop in to the Shuswap Family Resource Centre for support.

Rachel and Tom Miller are experts in the art of juggling.

From the beginning of the month to the end, they juggle their finances, trying to see if they can make it through without going to Money Mart for a loan, trying to figure out how they can stretch their food.

Some months are better than others.

The Millers – which isn’t their real name as they requested anonymity – are the parents of two children, one seven, one under a year.

For Rachel, it’s important to emphasize they’re not poor, they’re low income. They live in a trailer and, with her father’s help, rent to own it.

They had both been working when they met. However, Tom was injured while doing industrial work. He receives a small disability pension because of the injury.

They eventually cashed in their savings and moved to this area to be closer to family.

Until four years ago, Tom was driving truck but developed serious health problems. In 2013 he underwent neck surgery that led to the loss of his Class One driver’s licence. He endures back pain and is unable to pick up more than 10 pounds. He wants to work, but options are limited.

Rachel ponders going back to retail when her baby is older, but the cost of child care is prohibitive.

“The first two weeks of the month, we’re good,” says Rachel, noting the bills get paid. Then, whatever’s left goes to groceries – usually $200 to $300.

“Most of our groceries we buy at Walmart. People say shop local, I can’t… Sometimes we might hit a dollar store, especially for spices.”

Although they feel uneasy going to the food banks, they must go anyway.

“You can only get a hamper from the food bank every 60 days, and you only get enough food for about a week. You can get a bit more now that you can go in twice a week and get anything off the tables,” she says.

They have received help from the community, such as the Healthiest Babies program, the Salvation Army, their church and their family.

Still, it’s difficult.

“Like now we’re broke. We actually borrowed money from Money Mart again.

“We’re struggling, but we’re not on the streets. A lot of people are in the same boat, but lots are worse off.”

Sonja Dye and Stephen Vanderkroft could be considered ‘worse off.’

They are parents, but they don’t currently live with their baby. And they are homeless. They have been living ‘rough,’ staying in a tent, at the homeless shelter or couch surfing.

Dye, 22, and Vanderkroft, 29, have a 10-month-old son who was removed from their care when he was a month old because of ‘non-organic failure to thrive.’

“They were saying I wasn’t feeding him, they thought we were smoking while I was holding him and, because they knew about our past, they were very skeptical,” Dye says.

The baby is in foster care with Vanderkroft’s mother. Their situation is reviewed every three months.

What the couple wants most at the moment is a home. They both speak enthusiastically about being a parent.

“When I was little, I was the one my sisters would go to,” says Dye. “I’ve always loved kids ever since I was a little kid.”

Smiles Vanderkroft: “It’s just awesome – I was looking forward to it all my life.”

Dye and Vanderkroft met three years ago at a homeless shelter in Nova Scotia. Having both spent their early years shifted between foster homes, they understood each other.

They ended up in the West Kootenay for a year where Vanderkroft’s father lives, with Dye working in a deli and Vanderkroft finding odd jobs.

Then, after Dye became pregnant, they moved to Salmon Arm to be close to a hospital where the baby could be born. Although they found a home, they weren’t able to keep it. With Dye on maternity leave and he on welfare, they were bringing in a total of $650 per month for shelter – while the rent was $750 – and $200 for groceries, Vanderkroft says.

He explains the $580 she received for maternity leave was deducted off the total. “That’s what’s kept us trapped all year on the welfare system. If I go out and accept a job and if I was to make $200 this month, they would put it on the stub and take $200 off in January.”

He’d like to see people be able to make an amount above the welfare rate so they could “feel good about themselves because they’re working, and not have the stress of, ‘where am I going to get the money next month?’”

He said he does job searches daily, but a lot of them require a vehicle. Also, the ministry allows them to see their son only during certain daytime hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, which they both hate to miss.

Vanderkroft is hopeful he will get landscaping work in the spring. He’s also done roofing and has taken BladeRunners training, which included running a chainsaw, first aid and other courses.

Dye admits the stress of being homeless makes it tough to launch into school or work, and to get along.

“We fight a lot now, but we love each other.”


Just Posted

Wildfire sparks near perimeter of devastating 2017 Elephant Hill fire

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Okanagan Regional Library names new CEO

Don Nettleton, who has been with ORL for 24 years, takes over from Stephanie Hall

Market welcomes talking giraffe

Artists’ animated collaborative work comes to life at Westgate Public Market

Stolen vehicle evades attempt to spike tires near Sicamous

RCMP are looking for a black late 1990s Ford pickup with a suspension lift and no licence plates

CP vote deadline rescheduled for Friday

The deadline for the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and International Brotherhood of… Continue reading

They came for a good time on Shuswap Lake

Trooper plays for hundreds on Shuswap Lake this past May Long weekend

Olympian to lead Penticton Peach Festival parade

One of the top bobsled pilots in the world will lead the Peters Bros. Grand Parade

Two-year-old found unresponsive in pool

Mission RCMP located toddler after she went missing from a local daycare

Surrey RCMP issue warning after third sexual assault this week

It is the third sexual assault since Sunday

Toronto opening 800 emergency spaces to deal with influx of refugee claimants

Beginning Thursday, Toronto will temporarily house refugee claimants and new arrivals in 400 beds in the city’s east end.

Breaking: Trump cancels summit with North Korea

Trump cancels June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim, citing ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ in recent statement

Rivers rising: Floods in B.C., New Brunswick a warning of what’s to come

In B.C., thousands of residents are returning to homes this week marked with red or yellow signs indicating a health inspection is necessary

North Korea demolishes nuke test site with series of blasts

North Korea has carried out what it says is the demolition of its nuclear test site in the presence of foreign journalists.

Penticton homeless campers devastated by park cleanup

Two women, in their 50s and 60s, said they felt like giving up after their only home was cleared out

Most Read