If you need to put a face to the housing crisis here in Halifax, let it be Sam’s. Her story has a happy ending, but thousands of others are still facing a daily struggle to find housing. Sam wanted to share her story so that people could better understand the impact of the housing crisis on a family’s life.
Between 2019 and 2021, Sam and her two young daughters were “renovicted” three times. Each time, Sam had to uproot her daughters, put their belongings into storage, and find a temporary place to stay while starting the apartment hunt all over again. Those temporary places included her mom’s two-bedroom apartment and a local hotel – neither of which were ideal situations despite what you might assume.
“I couldn’t help but feel like a really bad mother,” confessed Sam. “It’s such a terrible feeling. And even though I was fighting so hard for them, for us, I felt like I was failing.”
Being unhoused is a full-time job. Sam was constantly online looking at apartment listings and would drop everything immediately when one came up in her price range. She’d get on a bus with her two daughters to go see it, only to find out that in the hour since the apartment was listed, eight other people have already been there to view it.
Chances were slim that a landlord was going to rent it out to me – a single mom – rather than a couple with a double income.
She felt unsupported by her income assistance social worker, but she did find support in Darcy Gillis, a housing support worker who works in coordination with two United Way-funded organizations – Welcome Housing and the Public Good Society. Darcy went to work for Sam and her family right away, taking some of the load of the housing search, and getting Sam onto the priority access list with Metro Housing.
“Having someone like Darcy in my corner telling me I was doing everything I possibly could was huge. So many people in my life made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough.”
When Sam finally got a call from Metro Housing, she was actually at another United Way-funded organization in Dartmouth North – The North Grove – where she says, “good things always happen!” They had a place for her, in Uniacke Square, not too far from her family and support systems in Dartmouth.
When we moved in, I felt like I could finally breathe again, like the world was lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer in a constant state of panic.
And Sam feels like she lucked out with her new community. “Uniacke Square has been fantastic, the community is so tight knit, diverse, and full of life.” Her oldest daughter who had to change schools is very social and adaptable, absolutely loves her new school and especially her teacher. Sam’s youngest is also enjoying her new pre-school program at the local family resource centre.
As for Sam, she’s back to working part time. And even though she downplays it, you can tell how much it means to her to have the ability to do that. To work at a job, instead of working to find a place to live. To get out of the house and have some freedom of her own. She’s also been accepted into NSCC’s Child and Youth Studies program. After that, Sam hopes to work at a parent resource or schools plus program to help other families who’ve found themselves in tough situations just like Sam, Ellie & Hazel.
United Way Halifax was also honoured to have Sam’s invaluable expertise and insights on our volunteer funding panel this past winter. By sharing her personal experiences and barriers faced, she can advocate for systems changes and clearly identify supports needed.