The first time we knocked on Harry’s door, he was trembling with anxiety and almost started to cry when we told him we wanted to help him.
The people we were visiting often had little contact with services, perhaps because they hadn’t needed them, or perhaps because they had avoided them in the interest of maintaining their independence. We cold called at apartments and more than once had the doors slammed in our faces when we introduced ourselves.
Harry, however, had an entirely different reaction the day we came to his apartment. He couldn’t wait to get started on fixing the many problems that confronted him. They were huge. He had virtually no identification papers, his arrears were sky-high and he was on the verge of losing his housing entirely. Although he was 67 years old, he had no pension; in fact he had no income to speak of.
The first thing we had to figure out was how to navigate his identification retrieval. It has become increasingly complex to have documents replaced when they’ve gone missing. Fortunately, Harry still retained the passport that indicated the date he had landed in Canada, and he had the photocopy of his citizenship card. He also remembered his SIN number.
Through a series of unfortunate coincidences, his name had been spelled in more than one way by the government and this meant that his original application for pension had been denied. They questioned whether he was who he said he was.
Fortunately, we were able to help Henry navigate the way back to having his identity restored. We also helped him get a temporary health card. We filled out his pension applications and within a couple of months, he had received a lump sum payment for what hadn’t been sent the year before and by the end of the summer OAS and CPP had begun to arrive regularly. Harry made a couple of substantial payments against his arrears and for the first time in years, began to look forward to a life uncompromised by debt and depression.
Harry is an artist, and his creativity is on display everywhere at the apartment where he lives. As he began to recover his life, it re-emerged in artistic exuberance. He designed and tiled a mosaic sunflower motif on a garden table. He replaced a mural in the community room, and he is at work on beautiful ornamental balls using sequins in dazzling and gorgeous designs which he sells (and also gives away).
His transition from desperation and penury hasn’t been entirely without bumps along the way, but Harry is a different man from the trembling and anxious one who first met with staff.