Wins


With his savings exhausted and rent two months behind, he was destitute. Every FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

Landlord threatening eviction

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Richard* was 63 years old, alone and in bad health. Too sick to work, he had lost his income.

Richard found Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), which helped him contact Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to start early benefits. Richard qualified but hadn’t filed taxes for years. FCSS helped him collect the required forms and file the overdue returns.

Between GST, carbon rebates and tax refunds, he received almost $26,000. That money would supplement his early CPP benefit, which became a decent number, once the taxes were filed.

Waiting for his refunds and other rebates, Richard survived with help from the food bank. FCSS arranged the referral and brought him a Christmas gift hamper and an emergency kit with basic toiletries. FCSS also supported him as he applied for subsidized seniors housing, which was recently approved. And it made him aware of other retirement benefits available when he turns 65.

With a steady stream of income and a guaranteed place to live, Richard is more optimistic about his future. 

Throughout the province, many FCSS programs help low-income Albertans complete their taxes to receive their refunds and qualify for benefits. In 2017 in one volunteer tax clinic, a single FCSS administrator and five volunteers completed almost 600 tax returns, getting back more than $4 million for low-income residents in the area.

FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.

 

*Not his real name

When you live outside a major centre and don’t have money for travel, life-changing surgery is beyond reach. Every FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

FCSS helps Joe see a new future

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The only room Joe* could afford was in a drug-den hotel.

For years, he had rented a basement suite. When the owner retired and sold, Joe scrambled to find a new place, despite a zero per cent vacancy rate. The only spot that matched his shrinking pocketbook was the questionable hotel.

He had worked all his adult life but had a degenerative eye disease and now couldn’t see well enough to earn a living. Medical treatment could restore his eyesight. When you live outside a major centre and don’t have money for travel, however, life-changing surgery becomes beyond reach.

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) reached out to its volunteer network and found volunteer drivers who would transport Joe to and from surgery. It also linked him with the Job Resource Centre, which was there when he was ready to go back to work full time.

A little bit of help at the right moment can shift your outlook and change your prospects. Joe soon had the dollars to pack his bags and move out of the hotel into his own suite. Without FCSS, he couldn’t have seen that future.

FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.

 

*Not his real name

The heating bill alone is $700 to $900 a month. They were scraping by. Every FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

I can actually breathe again

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Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) was hiring home support staff, and Nancy* (who is also a senior) put her name forward to help seniors and people with disabilities. She needed the money. Her 84-year-old husband is disabled and on oxygen. Her 1970s house sucks energy. The heating bill alone is $700 to $900 a month. They were scraping by on $1,775 a month, which didn’t cover the basics.FCSS gave Nancy a job. Without asking about her age, FCSS gently suggested that Nancy may qualify for seniors’ benefits.

“I didn’t know anything about guaranteed income supplement,” says Nancy. Conversations with her new employer showed that she and her husband were missing out on a long list of programs. The couple qualified for help with everything from prescriptions to home repair loans. Hearing aids, dental bills, glasses, home repairs—as seniors, they did not need to foot the bill alone.

The FCSS where Nancy was working assisted her with completing back taxes and helped Nancy and her husband apply for an array of benefit programs. They reached out to the Member of Parliament and to Alberta Seniors and Housing, which agreed to rush the applications. A six-to-seven-month process took less than 30 days. That meant an immediate $1,000 every month. The gas and power bill was $1,950 in arrears. The United Way Emergency Utility Fund agreed to pay the overdue costs.
“It’s not easy to ask for help,” says Nancy. “It is like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can actually breathe again.”

Instead of cleaning other seniors’ houses, Nancy now has spare moments to enjoy life. Right now, she’s planning a girls’ weekend—a bit of a reunion with her sisters who, like Nancy, deserve a break from years of hard work.
FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.

*Not her real name

FCSS boosts and backs volunteers who step up for newcomers. Each FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

What if you can't work?

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“It was almost winter, and there were only flipflops on the kids,” says Holly. “Two families and six kids were living in a one-bedroom apartment. Beans and a pound of wieners were doing them for a week at a time.”

Holly had started a women’s group that was meeting once a month for dinner. The group knew Mennonite families were moving to Alberta to find farm work. When it realized many families were hungry and cold, priorities quickly changed.

With help from Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), they formed the Mennonite Help Office.

More importantly, FCSS shared its extensive contact lists, so Holly and others could rally concerned and qualified citizens ready to give their time and knowledge.

Mobilizing volunteers is FCSS’s secret sauce. In a single year throughout Alberta, FCSS’s community programs engage volunteers who freely give more than two million hours of their time.

In the Mennonite Help Office, about 15 volunteers were on call, getting families to the food bank and helping with winter clothing, health care, work permits and documentation.

“We had a real mess for a while,” says Holly.

Language was a huge barrier. The Mennonites spoke a dialect of Low German and couldn’t read or understand enough English to complete government forms to acquire work permits and licences.

“Some were finding work, because they had lived in Ontario previously and were Canadian citizens. Others were coming on visitors’ permits and were not allowed to work, but had family relying on them back home.”

Holly estimates the Mennonite Help Office helped about 2,500 people who came to her part of Alberta. Many of those newcomers now work and own property in the area. With help from volunteers, who got a big boost and backup from FCSS, families managed to find a new start in Alberta.

FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.

No longer starving and out in the cold, he came back to FCSS to pay it forward. Each FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

Paying it forward at Christmas

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It was 4:30 p.m. on a cold Friday in mid-January. Key in hand, Linda was locking up for the weekend. Then a voice behind her spoke.

“Excuse me,” someone said.

Linda turned to find a shivering man, holding a small tattered suitcase.

She soon learned that he had been sleeping in a bank kiosk for several nights. Back in Ontario, he had sold everything to travel to Alberta for work. But the promised job didn’t materialize. There was no position waiting. Now, he was unable to buy even food. He had found his way to a church, where the minister directed him to Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). 

Linda called a hotel that had an agreement with a community partner that would assist with the cost of accommodation. It would provide a room for three nights. She called the local thrift store (another community partner) who provided warm clothes in the right size. The FCSS partnership with the local food bank ensured he received hotel-friendly food. At 7 p.m., the man was settled and safe.

The following Monday, FCSS went to into action and was able to direct the man to employment opportunities that suited his experience. As a result, he found work that included accommodation.  

The following December, volunteers were planning a Santa’s Toy Box in the FCSS office, when someone showed up to make a donation.

“What’s motivating you?” Linda asked, not immediately recognizing the man from last winter.

“A year ago, FCSS changed my life,” he said. “I had help finding a job. I’m a supervisor now, and I want to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.”

FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.