Two Ontarians share how FEPS helped improve their finances

9 August 2017
Author: Tara Popovic
The Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) program provides free, confidential, one-on-one support to individuals living on low incomes to help them build their financial health. Created by West Neighbourhood House, a Toronto neighbourhood services organization, the program provides hands-on help with a variety of financial needs such as tax filing, accessing bank services and managing debt.
 
The FEPS program is currently delivered by West Neighbourhood House (West NH), Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA), Jane/Finch Centre (JFC), and The Working Centre (TWC). Two FEPS participants recently shared how the program helped improve their financial situation.
 
Harrison's story
 
In September 2015, Harrison* was referred to the FEPS program at ACSA’s Homeless and Outreach Services Department to help him improve his financial situation. A FEPS worker first helped Harrison file 10 years of taxes providing him with a tax refund of $11,400 as a result. The FEPS worker then helped Harrison to apply for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) which he was eligible to receive. He began receiving retroactive lump-sum and monthly payments for CPP, however Harrison’s OAS application was put on hold because he didn’t have necessary proof of citizenship due to his struggles with recordkeeping while homeless.
 
Harrison returned to ACSA’s tax clinic in April 2016, and received an additional $1,417 through tax filing. He began meeting with FEPS workers to review his bank statements, revealing that his previous payments were almost exhausted. Harrison was living on a monthly income of only $645, leaving him unable to afford housing. 
 
One year after applying, Harrison finally received documentation of his citizenship and his OAS application was approved. In November 2016, he learned he would receive lump-sum payments from OAS and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) the next month, totalling $14,285. Before receiving the payment, a FEPS worker helped Harrison make a budget for his housing costs. Though not yet housed, Harrison continues to work with FEPS workers on goal setting and budgeting, and with the ACSA Housing Department in his search for a home.
 
Kristina's story 
 
Kristina* was a recently divorced, single mother of two young children when she first came to JFC’s volunteer income tax clinic. She began attending the financial literacy program at the encouragement of a FEPS worker. During this time Kristina learned that she had lost benefits and credits due to income from her husband’s business that was reported as her income. Kristina decided to pay off the debt herself and so a FEPS worker helped her develop a budget and repayment plan, explained how to monitor her credit rating and referred her to a local food bank to help relieve some of the financial strain. 
 
Later that year, Kristina returned with a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) review notice requesting that she verify that her children resided with her. She was reluctant to ask anyone else for help so they worked with her to obtain the required documentation to maintain her Canada Child Benefits. Her FEPS worker later learned she was involved in precarious employment, taking on various jobs. Kristina’s ex-husband had told her that her English was terrible and no one would hire her. After assuring Kristina that her English was fine, the FEPS worker referred her to English Conversation Circles to help her improve, and provided information on upgrading her education.
 
JFC is proud to share that Kristina is now a licensed massage therapist, affiliated with a local massage company, and has a steady income.  She says, “…it is the conversation about employment, finances and the future of my children that inspired me to make changes.”
 
Learn more
 
The FEPS project is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS).
 
Learn more about the FEPS Program
 
 
*Names have been changed to protect identity.

THE AUTHOR

Tara Popovic is an Intern for the Marketing and Communications department at Prosper Canada. She is passionate about public outreach, community engagement and learning about the newest trends in the industry. Tara is a current student in the Bachelor of Public Relations program at Humber College.

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