A step away from the unexpected

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Taking the first step into our building can be a challenging one. Even if you’ve accessed our program before, it never gets easier to accept that despite all your hard-work and many of your best efforts, you are still struggling to meet your basic needs, such as having enough food for a meal.

Unfortunately this is the reality for John (this is not his real name), a single male who was in for a hamper. Despite the fact that he’s been in a few times over the last few months, it’s not getting easier to accept that the original situation that brought him to our program about four years ago is yet to be resolved.

Before needing to access food assistance programs John was employed in a steady and high-paying endeavor. He was in a service position that showed no sign of slowing down, as it was service that many people rely on. For the most part he had a perfect situation going…until he experienced a bad day at work.

While completing a job at the side of the road, John was hit by a drunk driver. He sustained numerous injuries, which have taken him many years to overcome.

But thankfully now he’s doing well, when you consider where he’s come from. Most of what’s left is a permanent injury in his elbow, from some lingering bone fragments that will require surgery to potentially improve. However should he chose to forego the surgery and the complications that may follow, he’s left with a life of being careful not to bump his elbow – unless he wants to feel that sharp shooting pain for the next few weeks.

After the accident he had a brief waiting period before he was put on his company’s disability benefits. Between these benefits and his personal savings, he felt as if he’d be able to overcome this drastic life change. Well that was until he was informed that he would be transferred onto Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits.

WSIB benefits came in a timely manner; so John was able to stay up-to-date on his bills for the most part. However this was until one of the caseworkers at WSIB noticed that some of the paperwork was missing to complete his claim.

Because his file was missing certain documents, he was suddenly cut off the WSIB benefits – and for almost no fault of his own. Somewhere in the line up, whether it was his employer, the hospital or another agency, someone forget to fax over the appropriate paperwork. This left John to start back at step one. He needed to gather everything again before they could re-process his claim.

John was facing a more difficult challenge than he would anticipate though. His previous employer seemed to neglect to return his phone calls or to make the arrangements to send off the paperwork. Also he was somewhat restricted from entering the building because of liability issues. Then on top of that it’s taken months to track down all the necessary accident reports and records from hospitals and other involved parties. But he’s still missing some of the documents, because he can’t gain access to them.

Without these documents his claim cannot go through. So it’s almost certain that John will need to rely on the support of our program, since he’s basically run through any and all personal savings.

But today while I listened to his story, I could tell he wasn’t upset about having to go through all the steps to make his claim. He simply felt hopeless to find an end to his problem. He doesn’t know where to turn or who can help him get those final documents from his previous employer, except a lawyer that he obviously cannot afford to hire. So today just before he received his food hamper, I offered him some resources from our pamphlet rack that may be able to help him – or at least should be able to point him in a better direction. (You can also read about other referrals our staffs make by clicking here.)

Getting this referral put a smile on his face, which he says hasn’t been there in a long time. It meant a lot to him that someone was able to listen to him vent about his problems and potentially offer the solution he’s been looking for.

Overall John’s doing his best to stay positive, but often finds it more and more difficult given all the twists and turns he’s facing through this life changing situation. He never once would have thought that he would ever be only one step away from needing help with food or to pay his rent, since he’s facing an upcoming eviction.

Instead John has a new appreciation for all the times he donated food; and all the people who continue to donate food to support people facing similar situations and tragedies such as this. Many of these people never expect to need to take the first step into our building; but often appreciate the listening ear or the referral to another agency that can help them overcome the reasons they’re struggling. It’s usually such a brief period where people need help, since on average we distribute approximately one to three hampers for every family we serve. But each time we offer them some food for the next couple of days, we know we’re making a world of difference to a household facing numerous and diverse challenges.

We’ll never stop people from needing food banks, because situations will always exist to create an emergency. But thankfully we’re here to make sure that people like John are still able to eat at least one meal before the end of their day.

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