“Once JFS clients are settled in as new tenants, they often struggle to adjust to living in a permanent housing situation,” says Tanja Demajo, Director of Family and Adult Resources at JFS. “Many of our clients have a history of addiction, mental illness, a physical disability, and/or family abuse, so adapting to life in a new community is a challenge for them.”
The new TCL will act as a link between JFS and Tikva Housing to ensure that tenants who need support are settled in successfully and help them understand their roles, rights and responsibilities. In addition, the TCL will provide workshops and counselling as well as community building activities such as holiday celebrations and networking events. Tenants will also learn about appropriate services or resources.
Alice Sundberg, Director of Operations and Housing Development at Tikva Housing, says, “We value the collaborative relationship we have with JFS to make sure that those most in need in our community get access to affordable housing. The Tenant Community Liaison will help to ensure that the people we serve have more than just a roof over their heads. We plan to work closely with the TCL to connect our more vulnerable tenants to support services, job and educational resources as well as enhanced links to the Jewish community and culture.”
Affordable and social housing has become a critical issue in the Lower Mainland for almost all income levels. Following the trend in the general population, the part time JFS Housing Coordinator has seen over a 20% increase in the number of people asking for assistance with an average of 55 new calls a week. In the city of Vancouver, monthly rent of $1,730 for a one-bedroom unit is considered affordable. When a person on disability makes a yearly income below $18,000 per year and the minimum wage is $11.25, it is not surprising that the percentage of homelessness increased by 30% since 2014. The 2017 Homelessness Count in Metro Vancouver confirmed that some of the main barriers to finding housing were the high cost of rent, lack of income, and units that suit clients’ needs.
As the Jewish community responds to the issue of affordable housing, the Tenant Community Liaison is a step forward. “Lack of support for affordable and social housing damages clients lives and affects all of us directly or indirectly,” says Tanja Demajo. “Having a home is not a luxury, it is a basic need.”
* Tikva’s housing portfolio provides affordable rents to a broad range of household incomes; most of their housing developments are mixed-income communities.