Liza Feaver was homeless a year ago. She was in a parking lot when someone handed her a business card for SEED Winnipeg, a United Way agency that offers support and resources for people in low-income situations.
By that time, the 37-year-old Winnipeg woman had been couch-surfing for months.
Liza Feaver, who was formerly homeless, stands in front of the house she now lives in after receiving support from SEED that helped her get back on her feet.
Feaver said she knew if she could get proper documentation and put her finances back in order, she could probably put a roof over her head.
She said she’d lost her last place — staying with a friend — when the friend was evicted over unpaid rent.
SEED, which stands for supporting employment and economic development, helps get small businesses off the ground and offers aid to people such as Feaver.
“It was a business card,” Feaver said, recalling the moment in the parking lot.
“And it said if you need help getting your taxes done, call this number. About a week later, I did. I called and I got my taxes done, eight or nine years back. It was for free,” Feaver said.
She expected to qualify for a tax refund, enough to put toward rent and — perhaps, with her tax returns in order — a disability pension to give her some financial stability.
With her tax history back on track, SEED helped Feaver get new ID and open a bank account.
She got a tax refund and eventually qualified for a disability pension; Feaver says she copes with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
Feaver now also has a home.
She shares a two-bedroom house on the edge of the West End with a roommate and says her life is stabilizing. She’s been sober for two months and works day by day to manage an alcohol addiction.
“My next step is to quit smoking. People tell me that’s worse than a heroin addiction, ” Feaver said, with a small chuckle.
“SEED gave me a lot more confidence, knowing now that I have a voice.”
Aileen Krush, a co-ordinator with SEED, said people such as Feaver often qualify for help, whether it’s a pension, benefits of some kind or under a government program.
The Salter Street agency notes on its website that one reason low-income people have a tough time getting ahead financially is that they lack assets that can be leveraged to increase their spending power.
The program helped build her assets back up.
SEED Winnipeg’s asset building programs assist people with low incomes “to save for productive assets or household necessities.”
To help people meet their savings goals, programs include money management training classes, matched savings credits that are added to the funds based on an individual’s own savings and peer support from fellow participants, as well as one-on-one support from SEED staff.
“A lot of people we see are in Liza’s situation, where credit isn’t on their radar, and they’re more interested in the basics,” Krush said.
The reality is that if getting off the street is almost impossible without photo ID, even a birth certificate helps.
And without a bank account or a credit history, along with tax returns, it’s hard to qualify for subsidized housing or other benefits.
“It’s something that’s fairly simple, but a lot of people have problems with it,” Krush said. “We do a lot of problem solving with people.”
United Way Winnipeg supports 21 agency partners that, last year, provided job skills and money management training to over 1,500 people.
In the Three Years for a Better Winnipeg campaign, unveiled in the fall of 2016, United Way committed to connecting 2,800 more people such as Feaver with the skills to find employment and financial stability.
By Alexandra Pauls, Winnipeg Free Press. Reprinted with kind permission of the Winnipeg Free Press.