Our Information and Referral staff offer assistance of diverse kinds to our clients: help with getting all the financial assistance they are entitled to, help in finding affordable housing, and help to secure needed supports for independent living, to name just a few.
Val Zwicker and Nicola Zorkin are the two trained and experienced staff members working in our Information & Referral office. To give a better idea of the kind of service they provide, here are three of many stories that have occurred in the past couple of months. The names have been changed to protect confidentiality:
1) Overcoming a housing crisis: After many years in her Victoria home, Alice, a woman with a major disability and living on a very modest income, learned that her landlord was selling the building she lived in. With the high rental prices in Victoria, she feared that she would soon be homeless, and came to the VDRC in despair. Val suggested they formulate an action plan to give her the best chances of finding her a place in the city’s limited stock of subsidized housing. With the help of a friend who acted as an advocate for her, Alice followed the plan, which took a systematic and often personal approach to registering at all the public and private providers of affordable accommodation, and following up on all possible leads. It worked: over the summer she secured the kind of housing she needed, and moved in November.
2) Restoring full assistance benefits, getting life back on track: Jim, a homeless young man with a disability, came into our offices seeking help to understand why the Ministry of Social Development, over a year before, had begun deducting nearly $200 each month from his benefits. He had phoned the department six times to find out the reason, but could not get a satisfactory explanation.
Val helped Jim make a “supported phone call” to the Ministry. Val regularly conducts such calls with clients, in part to coach them in effective methods for conducting this kind of conversation on their own.
The Ministry worker they spoke with discovered that the monthly deduction had started due to an error made during a computer system change the previous year. The worker authorized an immediate payment to restore two month’s incorrect deductions, and promised to look into it further re-payments. After a week, the Ministry authorized retroactive payments for the whole period, amounting to over $2000.
Feeling encouraged by this turn of events and also by an action plan he worked out with Val to get long-term housing; Jim has found temporary, but stable, accommodation and has announced his plan to return to school and get his high school equivalency.
3) Discovery of entitlement to additional assistance: Neil, seriously injured 20 years ago and receiving a very low level of disability assistance, contacted the VDRC for help in exploring how he could improve his financial situation. Due to memory loss from the injury and shyness, however, he had missed five appointments set up with Val.
Finally, after two months, he came in. After a discussion Val advised him that he qualifies for financial benefits from another level of government– benefits that will double his income and make his life much more financially manageable.
She also discovered that he is entitled to benefits from the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). This program offers a yearly grant of up to $1000 in the form of a savings bond, without requiring the recipient to deposit their own money in the bank. (For those who have money to save, the RDSP also will match money put into a savings account by up to three to one.)