B.C. flood victims fear losing their homes — again — after Red Cross unexpectedly ends support
Emergency Management B.C. acknowledges 'concerns pertaining to service delivery'
Update — June 27, 2022: Anastasia Schell, Mary Dyck, and Stan Verbeek say they have received apologies from the Red Cross and discussions about funding will continue this week. The Red Cross says it followed up to ensure people affected by the flooding understand and have access to the supports that are available.
For the second time in a year, Anastasia Schell fears she's on the verge of becoming homeless.
Schell fled her home on the Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford, B.C., in November during the devastating floods.
Now, nearly eight months later, she says her financial support from the Canadian Red Cross has unexpectedly ended and she worries she won't be able to pay her rent.
Schell says the Red Cross told her in March it would cover a damage deposit, $1,300 of rent for six months and $600 for basic necessities. But she says the support only lasted for one month, not six, and she received around $2,200 total.
"We're petrified, We're scared we are going to be on the street," she said.
Schell and other flood-impacted renters in the Fraser Valley say they are worried about losing their new rental homes after financial support from the Red Cross stopped earlier than expected. Others say they are frustrated with what they describe as "poor" communication from the charitable organization.
Nearly 20,000 people were forced to abandon their homes in November after torrential rains swamped rivers and farmland across southern B.C.
The provincial and federal governments have been working with the Red Cross to provide personalized recovery support for flood relief, including interim housing and basic needs assistance.
While the Red Cross says it has supported thousands of flood victims, struggling residents are calling for more flexibility in financial support and better communication for victims of natural disasters.
'We have nothing'
After fleeing her flooded home, Schell says the Red Cross supported her husband, daughter, and pets by paying their hotel bill for four months. She said her pets and family needed more space and safety so they settled for a temporary rental house in the Sumas Prairie they could afford with assistance from the Red Cross.
"We have nothing. If we can't pay the rent, we are done," she said, noting her husband is the only working member of the family and earns a low income.
Mary Dyck echoes the sentiment. She says the Red Cross told her in April it would pay half her rent for six months, but she has only received support for three months and her case manager told her July would be her last month of assistance.
"Now I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm cut off now," she said.
Already on disability, Dyck says she can no longer afford the rental, which she considered a temporary solution until she found a more affordable option. Now she fears she will be living out of her truck.
Dyck and Schell were counting on financial support from the Red Cross for six months, or until they could find more affordable housing, whichever came first.
"You tell us one thing and then you take and rip it away. We have enough ripped away," said Schell.
Flood recovery support continues, says Red Cross
The Red Cross says it can't comment on individual cases for privacy reasons but says it is not ceasing its financial assistance and recovery support, which include financial support for further interim housing, housing repair and reconstruction, and accessing mental health services, among other supports.
As of May 1, the Canadian Red Cross said it had distributed more than $19 million in evacuation-related financial assistance to more than 7,500 eligible households and raised more than $40 million for flood relief. However, it said that the amount raised does not include government matched funds.
Emergency Management B.C. says the province's relationship with the Canadian Red Cross is "extremely valuable" in providing support to flood victims, but acknowledged there have been "concerns pertaining to service delivery."
The province said it's had discussions with the Red Cross and those concerns are being addressed.
Emergency Management B.C. says it continues to work with the Canadian Red Cross on how it can best support flood-impacted British Columbians and to ensure they receive support for as long as they need it.
At least one flood victim, however, says he never received any of the financial support he was initially offered by a Red Cross case manager.
Stan Verbeek said a Red Cross case manager initially told him in February the charity would assist with the damage deposit and rent support of $1,300 for six months.
Verbeek said he tried about eight times to connect with his case manager but was directed to other employees who took down his information and told him his case manager would be in touch.
Verbeek eventually gave up and said the case manager did not respond.
"I tried and tried and nothing happened," he said.
The 71-year-old says he eventually borrowed money from others but the Red Cross assistance would have gone a long way to support him and his grandchildren, who live with him.
"We were counting on it," he said.
He, Schell and Dyck are grateful for ways the Red Cross supported them, but say they could use more help. All three are now relying on the Yarrow Food Hub, which has provided meals and supplies for hundreds of flood-impacted residents.
The province encourages flood victims to reach out to the Canadian Red Cross, B.C. Housing, and local non-profit housing societies for shelter and financial assistance concerns.