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Homeless Vancouver family desperate to find a place to live
Vancouver's housing crisis has left a single mother and her two children homeless and in desperate need of a place to live before the start of the school year next week.
Megan McConkey said the rental property she was living in was sold and she and her children were forced to leave at the end June, despite having nowhere else to go.
Since then, they have been couch-surfing and relying on friends and family as the single mother spends her days scouring the internet for affordable rental listings.
So far, however, her search has not yielded anything that both meets that family's needs and is affordable.
"It's been scary and we're just doing everything we can to make ends meet and make a comfortable place wherever we can be," she said. "It's been hard not to lose heart at this point too because it's been so long and nothing has turned up."
Every few days, the family has to pack up and move to yet another temporary accommodation.
"I really don't want to overstay our welcome because it's like people are being so kind and we do have good support, but we also deserve to just have our own space," she said.
"I just really hope that we can find a place before school," said McConkey's 11-year-old child, Finn.
The mother lives on a disability income from the province because she suffers from a degenerative disk disease and bone spurs that grow around her spine, causing her pain and mobility issues.
But the assistance program only offers $625 a month for shelter, a far cry from the $2,000-plus McConkey says she needs for a two-bedroom apartment in the city.
"It's never been this hard, ever, in the history of Vancouver as I've known it just to be able to afford something small for me and my kids," she said.
And this isn't the first time she and her children have been forced out of their home.
The family lived in the city's Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood for about 10 years before their landlords sold the property to an owner that wanted the entire space for themselves.
"We had two months to uproot a decade of life and everything as we knew it and leave the city before the school year was over," she said.
After spending a year on Vancouver Island, McConkey's family moved back to Vancouver, only to find themselves in the same predicament a short while later.
"There's days that I'm just trying to put on a brave face and make sure I'm reassuring (my kids) that something will come and trust that something will come, but it breaks my heart because it makes me feel like it takes a toll on my self-worth," she said. "I'm a good person with everything to give and I don't know why it's so hard to figure out."
McConkey said she's also joined registries from BC Housing and other non-profits, but to no avail.
She's even tried to get a spot at one of the family shelters in the area, but those too are full.
"It's extremely difficult to find something. There are only a handful of options for families and whenever you have young children in question, it becomes all the more difficult," said Jeremy Hunka, a spokesperson with the Union Gospel Mission.
"It's an extreme crisis. The chances of finding something are so bleak sometimes that we'll spend all day trying to help that one family, that one night."
Women with children, Hunka added, can find it especially difficult to find adequate housing.
"We know that women and children are definitely undercounted in the point-in-time homeless counts that we have. They're often couch-surfing. They're part of the hidden homeless," he said. "They're there, they're suffering, they're struggling, but society will not see them."
According to BC Housing, applicants on its registry are offered housing based on their need.
One of the factors considered when determining the level of need is "stability of current accommodation." And while that appears to apply directly to McConkey's situation, she hasn't yet been offered anything suitable by the organization.
The UGM said that it is now aware of the difficulties the family is facing and will do what it can to help.
"We just want normalcy. We just want our lives back," McConkey said. "We've been put on hold and we have so many things to do in life and we need a stable place to start from."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro