This article is part of an ongoing initiative to build community resilience in Revelstoke by raising awareness of shared experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic. You will find first hand stories as well as results from the Community Well-being survey.
Sofia and Christian Urrego are among the wave of new Revelstokians. Having arrived from Colombia with limited English a year and a half ago, they work in the service industry at minimum wage. A good part of that gets sent back to Colombia to help support their families, whom they hope to one day bring to Canada as well.
“It was very hard to find a place to live, and very expensive,” says Christian, who initially started out renting a room in a house with an older woman in the Big Eddy.
His wife, Sofia, was meant to arrive in March 2020, but her flight was cancelled the day before she was
scheduled to fly over, due to the pandemic. As a result, Christian found himself solo in Revelstoke for the next eight months, until flights opened up again.
When Sofia arrived, his employer, Zalas, helped them find a place in Columbia Park – only to have to move again when the owners sold the house.
“It was hard to find a place to live because we don’t make much money and don’t have many connections in this town,” he says.
This became more of a challenge when their hours kept getting cut on account of reduced customers and multiple needs to quarantine.
Like many in town, they sought support from Community Connections, and applied for rent subsidy. Support from Community Connections has been crucial to their well-being so far, and that of their family’s. Accessing the Foodbank and Food Recovery programs has also helped them make ends meet.
According to Erin Machlachlan, BA, BSW, Housing and Outreach coordinator at Community Connections, demand for rent subsidies has never been higher.
“We saw a huge increase in rental subsidy applications from last April to this year,” she says. “BC housing then provided Community Connections with an increase in our housing supplements. We went from six per month to 26 per month,” she says.
To her, the pandemic has put pressure on already existing cracks. The housing crisis is not due to the
“Wealth inequality has existed in Canada for many years [and as a result] we are seeing more and more of an imbalance between the ‘haves and the ‘have nots’.”
Despite this being a failure by the system, she observes that many people take this on as a personal failure.
“I think these struggles become internalized by many people as shame because they cannot take care of themselves, or their family, the way they would like, [and they] are internalizing their inability to afford the cost of living as personal failure,” she reflects. “When your community cannot afford the basic necessities from full-time employment, something is amiss.”
She emphasizes that Community Connections is there to support people who come seeking support.
Yet, while Community Connections offers a variety of supports, the community itself plays a vital role in supporting its members.
“We are grateful to be here, because it’s safe, quiet and we love Revy,” Christian explained.
He says he is grateful for all the support he has received – including that of his employer, Zala’s. His boss helped him find their new place in Johnson Heights, as well as a car so he could get to and from work. Christian’s employer is also supporting them with their residency application.
“We love Revelstoke,” he says. “I feel in debt and blessed to have the opportunity to be here.”
I ❤️ Revy is a collaborative well-being initiative by the City of Revelstoke’s Recovery Task force. This is the third in a series of articles. Together, the I ❤️ Revy team hopes to build community resilience by sharing information, tips, tools, and stories. Contributors are: Taha Attiah, Lisa Cyr, Jocelyn Doll, Benjamin Dorsey, Simon Hunt, Myles Williamson, and Sarah Windsor.
To join the conversation go to talkrevelstoke.ca/i-heart-revy