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A selfie of Dave taken in front of a neutral background.

Helping a family find a place to call home

My kids and I had to move into a hotel on August 14, 2020. I remember the exact date. We’d been living with my dad and when he sold his house, we thought we’d be able to move in with my mother-in-law. But she kept delaying and we weren’t sure why. Eventually, we realized we weren’t going to be able to move in at all. I was getting so frustrated because I had a plan and it just fell through, and this was all happening during COVID. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’

But United Way was there to help me figure out a new plan.

We’d been stuck at the hotel for 11 weeks. It was tough. We only had a microwave and a fridge, so cooking was really hard. Imagine trying to make Hamburger Helper in the microwave. It did not go well! We needed more space—my daughter is 14 and my son just turned 10, and we were all crammed into one room with one bathroom. And by the end, my bank account was practically empty. I’m a frontline worker, I work at a grocery store, and I had saved up quite a bit of money, but the hotel just killed my savings. I was on my last few dollars.

Luckily, my daughter mentioned that she was doing her schoolwork from the hotel to one of her teachers, and they connected me to Blue Door, a United Way-supported organization. At first, I was kind of nervous. I wasn’t used to having help, and I felt like, ‘am I useless?’ But Emily, the woman I’ve been dealing with there, was very calm and patient with me. She helps other people out, too, so she understands what we’re going through. She’s like a younger sister, honestly.

I told Emily that my credit wasn’t great, but if they could help me get a place, I could start paying rent. Within a week, the organization had found us an apartment in a nice neighbourhood in Newmarket. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms—it’s so nice, and we all finally have some space. I’ve probably seen my daughter about ten hours total since we moved in, she loves her room so much!

It feels so good to be able to make a home-cooked meal. At Christmas, I made a turkey with all the trimmings. But even on a regular day, it’s actually just nice to cook a meal instead of reheating things in a microwave or trying to make something from a package.

We’ve continued to receive support from the organization, too. I happened to mention to Emily that I was going to buy some blow-up mattresses because our beds had been damaged where we stored them, and within two hours the agency had arranged to have brand new beds delivered. They’ve sent over gift cards to help with groceries and household stuff and connected my daughter to a peer support group.

But the biggest thing is having a place. We would have definitely ended up on the streets if not for United Way. I like to do everything by myself, but this experience showed me it’s ok to reach out and ask for help once in a while.

United Way program participant