Over the past year, a total of 470 people in 223 households received assistance from the food bank at least once. Mathie Franchuk is one of them, trying to make it through the month on a small disability payment. (John Arendt/Summerland Review)

An ongoing struggle with poverty

Summerland woman relies on regular support from food bank

Money is tight for Mathie Franchuk.

The Summerland woman receives less than $1,100 a month from her disability payment.

She pays $750 a month to rent a small trailer and she pays rent on a small storage unit for some of her possessions. Her other regular expense is a cell phone, which costs $40 a month.

She keeps her possessions in storage, hoping for the day when she will be able to return to a better lifestyle.

In the past, she worked as an antique picker and made a good living in this work. However, her lifestyle today has changed as she tries to make ends meet on the meagre disability payment she receives each month.

“I can’t live on what I get,” she said.

Because of her difficult finances, Franchuk has had to forego expenses, including some much-needed dental work. Even a small additional expense becomes a significant obstacle.

Franchuk is a regular at the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre.

“The food bank here in Summerland is one of the best I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Those who use the food bank can pick up food once a month, although supplementary food distribution is available for those in need.

The trailer does not provide much space for Franchuk and her two dogs, Thunder and Blood Brother.

She would like to move into a place better suited for her and the dogs but adds that it is difficult to find a place she could afford that will accommodate the animals. She has references for the dogs.

“My two dogs are my everything,” she said. “These dogs are my family.”

Rental costs have increased in Summerland and the rest of the region in recent years.

When Franchuk moved to the South Okanagan from Vancouver a few years ago, she was able to find places to rent at $550 a month. Today, it is hard to find anything under $800 a month. Her trailer is one of the few exceptions.

At times, she has taken to panhandling in an attempt to bring in more money to meet her needs, even though panhandling is not permitted in Summerland.

Instead of panhandling, she would like to get a part-time job to supplement her disability income.

Franchuk continues to hope for a time when she will be able to live a little more comfortably, a time when money will not be so scarce.

But she does not anticipate a change anytime soon.

“I can’t see myself getting out of this situation,” she said.

John Bubb, president of the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre, said he would like to see more in place to assist those in need within the community.

The food bank and resource centre provides food, computer access, laundry equipment and other support, but Bubb would also like to see a drop-in centre for people who need to warm up on cold days.

Bubb added that Franchuk’s story is not unique. During the past year, 49 Summerland households received food from the food bank for at least nine months.

Over the past year, a total of 470 people in 223 households received assistance from the food bank at least once.

“It’s a really important issue in the community,” he said. “It’s such a difficult situation.”

Each month across Canada, more than 850,000 people use food banks for assistance. More than one-third are children and youths.

According to First Call, a coalition of child and youth advocates, 691,710 British Columbians live in poverty.

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