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Food banks help elderly couple move from cabin with no electricity to Bay Roberts apartment

["President of the Carbonear chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Kerri Abbott, helps place donated items on the organization's nearly empty shelves."]
Kerri Abbot of the St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank in Carbonear.

Rising cost of living creates issues for people reliant on fixed incomes

BAY ROBERTS, NL — An elderly couple have local food banks to thank following their move from a cabin in the woods to a clean apartment in Bay Roberts.

With the help of Kerri Abbott of the St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank in Carbonear, as well as the Helping Hand in Bay Roberts, the couple, living without electricity or water services since at least May of 2017, found a new apartment in Bay Roberts to live in.

The couple, who are in their 60s, relied on a cabin located 45 minutes into the forest for shelter and used open flames and the bounties of Newfoundland’s woods to survive, along with help from Carbonear’s food bank, on the scarce occasion the couple would make a trip to town.

Abbott told The Compass that it was there at the food bank that she first met the couple, where they would pick up bottles of water en masse, carrying them back to their cabin. It was the week of Monday, Jan. 8 that the couple came to the food bank looking for help, explaining they were living as self-sufficiently as possible, but still under dire straits.

Finding the couple a new home was, as Abbott explained, a fairly quick process.

“It needed to be quick, to get them out of the cold,” she said. “This woman only had sneakers on her feet and a summer’s jacket. We got in contact with the landlord, and they were there to sign the papers the same night.”

However, Abbott stressed the fact that blame for the couples’ situation should not be placed anywhere specific, noting that it would be difficult for anyone to know their living conditions, considering how far away they lived, and how difficult they were to contact with no landline or internet access whatsoever.

“They’re living on a fixed income, as many seniors are, and with the cost of living these days, it just wasn’t paying the bills for them,” Abbott explained. “And unfortunately, that’s often the case these days. This couple didn’t have a phone to call, or neighbours living next door, or internet access, so it was a very difficult situation.”

While Abbott knows the couple was overjoyed at the thought of having a warm new home to live, lights to switch on and off and a flushable toilet, she is not sure if it will be a permanent move for them. As bills begin to pile up, she fears the couple’s fixed income will not cover all the necessary costs.

It’s a sign of the times, and things have changed, but there is a generation out there that just can’t do those things.

— Kerri Abbott

“There are no emergency shelters in this area, so what happens in these kinds of situations is people are sent to St. John’s. In some of the shelters, you can have both a male and a female, but oftentimes those are full, so, likely, they would have been split up. On top of that, they had cats, so they would have been forced to abandon those as well,” Abbott explained. “But with rent being so high, a fixed income is often not enough to sustain a family.”

According to Abbott, these situations are not as rare as people might think. She has personally seen a significant increase in the amount of people forced out of their homes due to the cost of living, especially in the older generations. She once encountered an elderly couple from the area utilising the food bank that lived out of their car.

“Most of the times, the young ones that are out there that have fallen on hard times, or are homeless, they know what’s out there, because it’s just a matter of going online and seeing what’s available, and they’re much easier to just pick up and move,” she explained. “But we’re seeing a lot more in the older generations, and that’s because they often don’t have the savvy to find the right information in this day and age. If they have a cellphone, oftentimes they only use it for calls, not to go to a wi-fi hotspot and go online and Google things, or figure out how to operate different websites. Even if you go to certain government offices nowadays, you’ll just be told to go to online for certain things. It’s a sign of the times, and things have changed, but there is a generation out there that just can’t do those things.”

The couple in question, as of Wednesday afternoon, have no real furniture of their own. However, Abbott reached out to Darlene Kearley of the Helping Hand in Bay Roberts, which operates a food bank and thrift store. With the help of social media, they were able to track down a bed for the couple. Ironically, as Abbott explained, the bed came from another elderly couple downsizing their home to accommodate the rising cost of living.

“This kind of thing is happening more and more around here, and I think it’s something people need to be aware of,” Abbott said. “An emergency shelter is something we need around here these days, and as the days go by, that’s becoming more and more evident.”

Chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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