The moment the COVID-19 crisis hit home
How I learned the importance of finding the right resources and asking for help.

Last weekend was hard.

Thursday night, a close friend and I were having a glass of wine over Skype (#QuarantineLife). While we were lamenting being unable to meet in person, my phone buzzed.

I opened the text and I let out an exasperated sigh. “What is it?” my friend asked. I stressfully laughed and replied, “Want to hear the worst text I’ve ever received?”.

It was from my landlord:

At first I laughed it off (“When it rains it %*#&ing pours, am I right?!?”). Then my thoughts started to race:

What if I get evicted? How long can I stay here? How the hell am I going to afford a new apartment in Toronto? What am I going to do? My head was spinning.

The short-term rental market dried up in Toronto, which is bad for my landlord since the other two units in the house are both dedicated Airbnbs. Unfortunately for me, they don’t want to rent out the units long-term, so they’ve now confirmed they are selling the house.

Next, I found out I’m expected to let potential buyers come in and view my apartment. Ummm… we’re in the middle of a pandemic! I’m not letting close friends come into my home, let alone complete strangers.

All of the uncertainty hit its crescendo when the universe threw one last sucker punch: the lights went out in my apartment.

A fuse blew while I was vacuuming, knocking out the electricity in 3/4 of my apartment. On top of that, the circuit breaker is in a different unit, which meant I had to call my landlord to get it fixed…all while I was arguing that I don’t want strangers in my home during a pandemic.

It might seem melodramatic, but this broke me. I laid down on my hardwood floor and just stared blankly at the ceiling for about an hour. I felt alone. I felt like I’d lost control.

But my phone was buzzing in the other room.

As I slowly emerged from my anxious haze, I noticed messages and missed calls from friends and my parents who knew what was going on.

Over the next several hours:

  • One friend got me to break the many issues into pieces to tackle one at a time, giving me back a sense of control.
  • Another friend sent me links to announcements about a temporary ban on evictions in Ontario. Gen Squeeze is also keeping track of other renter protections and evictions bans across the country.
  • Another friend sent me an article about the Ontario Real Estate Association calling for realtors to stop running open houses during the state of emergency. (I’ve also since learned that real estate boards in British Columbia have done the same.)
  • My mom helped me draft a message to my landlord expressing my concerns about having strangers view my house and work out a solution.
  • My colleagues supported me, sending me advice and later even got on the phone with the Landlord Tenant Board when I was unable to get past a busy signal.
  • AND my landlord came to the house later in the evening to fix the circuit breaker so that I had power in my apartment again.

Now, this didn’t miraculously cure my stress and anxiety. My stress levels are still at a 8/10 and my housing situation is still awash with uncertainty.

But, I learned 3 things that I want others in similarly uncertain situations to hear:

  1. Ask for help!!! Reach out to your community when you need help (family, friends, colleagues, neighbours). If anything, the emotional support makes a huge difference.
  2. Stay up to date on government policies and protections. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments have put in place some ways to support people struggling as a result of COVID-19. Gen Squeeze is frequently updating a guide outlining federal and provincial resources that can help you find your bearings.
  3. Take a breath. Things can hit all at once and it will feel absolutely overwhelming. Give yourself a moment to breathe.

And one more thing: be ready to help others when they need it.

We’re all struggling through this together and we need each other more than ever. People in our communities will need our help. We need to regularly check in and be ready to offer help in any way we can (even if it’s just a virtual shoulder to cry on).

I want to make one thing crystal clear as I finish up. I am relatively privileged compared to so many others. I haven’t lost my source of income. I still have my apartment (for now). I have parents who would welcome me to move back home if I need to get back on my feet. I am not immunocompromised. I have no dependent children (unless you count my utterly adorable puppy, Zoë. Pictured below, obvs!).

We can’t lose sight of vulnerable communities hit way harder by this crisis. Indigenous peoples struggling with housing and access to clean water. Homeless folks who don’t have anywhere to shelter in place. The elderly and immunocompromised who are at greater risk of health complications or death because of the virus. Low-income families struggling to make ends meet.

We need to be ready to support, stand in solidarity and speak up for vulnerable communities.

We’re all living through an intense, unprecedented moment.

One thing that gives me hope is we could emerge from this with an empowered sense of community and readiness to tackle the challenges ahead, together!

 

(It's my responsibility, as a Dog dad, to share some pictures of my wonderful, cute, and adorable little puppy, Zoë. So here you go! #QuarantineBuddy)

Dave Hibbs
About
Dave is the Digital Strategy Lead at Gen Squeeze. He works to ensure that Gen Squeeze has a strong presence online and helps create campaigns to mobilize young Canadians across the country.
The moment the COVID-19 crisis hit home
The moment the COVID-19 crisis hit home
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