Most of us are only one paycheck away from homlessness. I realized this truth one June when I was fired and evicted on the same day.
Although I had been working, I already lived in poverty in a small room, saving a great portion of my income to rent my future apartment in Vancouver City. I scrimped on food, bought needed clothing at Value Village Thrift Store, and did without luxuries like haircuts and new shoes.
After I lost my job, I existed on provincial Income Assistance, with 'Employment Insurance Pending'. I stretched out the meager food supply in my cupboard and refrigerator even further. A diet of coffee and Mr. Noodle, with lentils, rice and eggs for nutrition was all I could manage. Any essentials like medication and transit passes, I purchased with my credit card, which was already charged near its limit.
Meanwhile, I searched for a place to live in Vancouver - a city with a zero percent vacancy rate. Under duress, I used my hard-earned savings to rent a "cottage" - a converted garage behind a boarding house. There was a single room with a loft to sleep in and furnishings consisting of a chrome dinette set with two broken chairs, a broken-down sofa, a working fridge and a stove-sink combo. A small, rusty shower in the bathroom sufficed. Leaving my furnishings in storage, I moved in with my foam mattress, clothing, and radio, and then tried to make the place into a home for the present.
Finding a job was impossible for I grieved the loss of my old one, and I reeled with feelings of low self-esteem as a result of being fired. Since I needed work to feel busy and worthwhile, I persuaded Value Village to hire me for a few weeks, soliciting donations for their store. Later in desperation, both on my part and on the part of a plumbing supply company, I was hired part-time as a retail clerk. However, I never even worked a day at this job, for overwhelmed by stress, I'd locked myself out of my cottage on my first day of work.
Occasionally, one of the single moms who lived in the main house came over for coffee. She laughed at the paltry contents of my fridge. "You have only one potato and two eggs!" she said.
So I gave myself time to grieve my job loss and enjoy summer at the beach. I played the Employment Insurance game of going into their office regularly and listing the jobs that I sent resumes to. I worked part-time with a homemaker service, cleaning house for a woman who suffered a stroke. I needed a break from office work.
By September, my interest in cleaning waned, and knowing that fall was a good time for job hunting, I began my serious search for work. Still feeling intense low self-esteem, I concluded that I needed part-time work to avoid becoming over-stressed. In fact, I felt that job searching itself would be too stressful, so I registered with a few employment agencies. One of them placed me in a drone dicta-typing position with an insurance firm. The part-time income was more than I had to live on from Employment Insurance, but my poverty continued.
I became depressed in the "cottage" because it lacked security and the residents in the house suites were noisy and intrusive. Coincidentally, my friends only a few blocks down the street were vacating their mini bachelor suite. Again in duress, I moved, though the apartment was quite pricey. Most suites in Vancouver were. What the apartment lacked in size, it made up for in comfort, so I moved all my furnishings out of storage.
My struggle with poverty continued. Although I managed to eat healthful food with my limited income, I remained unable to buy new clothes. I merely survived and worried about my debt. However, I'd succeeded in averting homelessness - this time.