Charla Huber: This isn’t a time to skirt the system

I have volunteered for the Metchosin Emergency Program for a number of years now. Through my involvement in the emergency program I first learned the term “shelter-in-place.”

In an emergency, people can be asked to shelter-in-place for safety reasons. Much like we are being asked to do right now. In an earthquake, people might be asked to shelter-in-place if their home is still safe to be in. Otherwise, there will be comfort centres set up in each municipality where people can go.

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During this pandemic, we are all sheltering in place because home is the safest place to be.

I work in affordable housing and I have many colleagues who are out on the front lines supporting tenants living in affordable housing and Elders and seniors who are living in assisted-living facilities.

Working in affordable housing I am reminded daily of the importance of having a safe, affordable home. During this pandemic, this is only magnified and the need for people to have a place to call home is so important. Especially when the government is asking everyone to stay in their homes.

There are thousands of people who are losing their jobs and incomes because our country has come to a near halt. With all the uncertainty, the last thing anyone needs right now is to fear the loss of their home.

“As an affordable-housing provider and an employer, we understand both sides of the equation,” said Kevin Albers, CEO of M’akola Housing Society.

Knowing COVID-19 has made its way into our community, anything outside our homes can be scary.

“This is not going to be an easy time for some folks over the next few months,” said MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. “We’ve announced a moratorium on evictions to support people and to help stop the spread of this illness.”

This week, the B.C. government announced a $500 rental supplement that could be paid directly to the landlord if a renter’s income has been affected by COVID-19.

“We know it won’t fully cover rent, but we wanted to make sure the landlords get something,” said Chandra Herbert.

“Landlords have expenses, taxes and insurance. There is no other jurisdiction offering supports like this for renters.”

Federal and provincial governments have made many announcements on funds that will be made available to people who need them. These aids are available for people who have lost their income or seen their income reduced.

“For non-profits like ours and for market landlords, the support by the province allows us to continue to meet our obligations, including supporting our teams to do their important work,” said Albers. “It also provides certainty for tenants across B.C. and allows them to focus their efforts on their families, social-distancing and self isolation where necessary.”

This is a scary time for everyone. This isn’t a time for us to look for ways to skirt the system.

A couple of weeks ago, the B.C. government announced a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent in B.C. Housing-funded properties. Similar to the game of telephone we all played as children to learn how words can be misconstrued, people started spreading the news that renters didn’t need to pay their rent.

If you can pay your rent, pay your rent. The same goes for student loans, mortgages and insurance. There are systems in place to help those who truly need it. The moratorium on evictions doesn’t mean people can do whatever they want and keep their homes. If the safety of others is a concern, people can still be evicted.

Just a couple of short weeks ago, people were being publicly shamed for clearing store shelves of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer and then re-selling them at wildly inflated rates.

This isn’t a time for anyone to use the pandemic to make money or save money at other people’s expense. We are in this together.

We have all been asked to shelter-in-place, and to do so, we need to have homes where we feel safe and secure. If you have a home and are struggling financially, I hope you apply for the support that is available.

The real tragedy of the story is the people who do not have a place to call home at all.

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