When Paul and Ilga first met 13 years go, Ilga was ready for change, after having recently lost her daughter and unborn grandchild to a devastating car accident. She and Paul dated online for a few months before she decided to move from her hometown of Quebec to British Columbia to be with him. It wasn’t long before they were in love and living in a new home to both of them.
It was a mobile home owned by Paul’s boss, who offered them the deal of paying on a rent-to-own basis. After six years, Paul and Ilga thought that they owned their home outright, but this was not the case.
It was a complete shock to them when Paul’s boss declared bankruptcy and revealed that he’d never transferred the ownership of the home to them.
They were immediately evicted.
Paul and Ilga were both undergoing some health issues, Paul receiving chemotherapy treatment and Ilga dealing with COPD (progressive lung disease) and the repercussions of two heart attacks. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, they found themselves at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission’s shelter.
In the past, when Ilga drove past the shelter, she’d think, “That will never be us.” On arrival, she was a mess. She was afraid of feeling humiliated and didn’t know what to expect.
Now she recognizes that it can happen to anyone. “People are just two paycheques away from being homeless,” said Paul.
As the couple got to know the staff, volunteers and other guests at the Mission, they realized that they had a lot to give, in the way of relationships. They became invested in the stories of each person there.
“Once you get to know them and understand where they’re going, you realize that they’re more like you than you’d imagined,” said Ilga, adding, “There’s a lot of hardship out there.”
Paul and Ilga’s stay at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission was short. Within 5 weeks, and with the help of their caseworker, Tony, they’d found housing and had moved out. With a new place to call their own, they’re looking forward to being able to save again and eventually buy a car and a home.
“I was humbled,” said Ilga. “I think it was a good test.”
They gave us everything we needed and I’m grateful for the experience because it helps to see what people go through. People experiencing homelessness are just like you and me.
Now, she describes her new home as heavenly. Their roof, their food, their door. She’s determined to never take them for granted again.
Paul is still waiting for another round of therapy, but expressed his thankfulness for a comfortable home to return to, while recovering between treatments. “If it weren’t for my faith in God, I wouldn’t have made it,” added Ilga. “You see it from afar, but you don’t live it.”
The shock of the situation put a lot of stress on Paul’s body, so he’s incredibly happy to have pulled through without further complications.
“We’re coming out of this situation with fuller and more welcoming hearts,” said Ilga. “Sometimes we judge without realizing we’re doing it. I don’t want to do that anymore.”