An individual named Carla came into the 211 office and was visibly distressed; she sat down and started using our free computers and internet site. She was asked if she needed any help but she didn’t seem to want to open up, and continued using the computer. After a few minutes, this individual was in tears and could not stop crying. The 211 specialist went over and asked again if she needed any help, this time she accepted. We moved to a more private area where Carla could share her story with me. Carla and her two children left her husband and the family home over a year ago and Carla was worried because she was having a hard time finding affordable housing. After speaking with Carla for some time, I also learned that she did not file her income taxes for the previous year and was having a hard time paying utilities and finding food. We reviewed various service options with Carla and informed her of affordable housing options (Rent Supplement Program and Rent Geared-to-income housing).
Carla was provided with a list of food banks and other food programs she would be able to access and we submitted an application for the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) on her behalf. We also started the application process for the Low-Income energy assistance program (LEAP) to help with her current hydro arrears and assisted her in completing a social housing application. I also assisted her in contacting the Canada Revenue Agency so that she can get the appropriate information she requires to file her income taxes. We were able to get the information we needed from Revenue Canada and she was able to file her tax return.
Carla returned a few months later for help with another matter, but wanted to let us know that because her taxes were filed, she was eligible for some tax credits and benefits, which have helped her immensely in paying rent and utilities. She also told us she was receiving a rent supplement while she waited for rent geared-to-income housing and that she was approved for the OESP program and that the LEAP program was able to pay off her arrears.