66-year-old Douglas* wanted to pay his taxes. He wanted to get out of debt. And he wanted to find a home. He just didn’t know where to begin.
“I had no idea how many years of taxes I needed to file,” said Douglas. “I also had no idea about how to apply for Old Age Security (OAS) or the GST rebate.
Douglas is a regular at one of 24 family resource centres (FRCs) in Winnipeg supported by United Way Winnipeg donors. He’s lived nearby for 20 years and usually visits daily or at least three times a week.
Douglas said he likes to go to the centre because it’s a safe place to hang out, enjoy some coffee and toast, and visit with nice people. He also gets access to the FRC’s resources and programs and recently participated in a free tax clinic, with assistance from Community Financial Counselling Services (CFCS).
“This past tax season, Cory at the FRC and Richard at CFCS helped me complete seven years of taxes,” Douglas said. “I was able to clear up my debt with CRA and all my other outstanding debts. It was a big relief to have this service available.”
Douglas also received assistance applying for his OAS and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).
The FRC provided a secure mailing address for his income tax returns, OAS payments, and GST, he said.
As a result of the money he received, Douglas, who was previously homeless, was able to secure a place to live.
“I paid my rent months in advance with my tax return,” he said.
For many Winnipeggers living in poverty, having an address is one of the first steps to obtaining an ID, accessing provincial and federal benefits, and filing tax returns.
Having lived on the streets and in poverty, Douglas wants to give back.
“I volunteer wherever and whenever I can,” he said. “I care a lot about people and my community. I know how it is to be without something, and the struggle is real.”
Douglas is extremely grateful to United Way Winnipeg donors for all the support he received and hopes more Winnipeggers will choose to give.
“You never know when you or someone may need help,” said Douglas. “The tables can always turn. You never know.”
*Participant’s name and image have been changed.