Tax Season

It’s COOOOOOMMING…..!!!

I’m going to say a dirty word. Are you ready? Don’t be shocked!

TAXES.

Ugh. It’s that time of the year. Tax season. The worst time of the year and the worst way to spend a couple of hours (days?!?). I HATE doing my taxes. Are you with me?

However, there is one part that I like. Only one. Are you ready?

I like adding up my donation receipts to see how much I have given away to my favourite charities. I am usually surprised (am I REALLY that generous?!?) and often consider what else I could have done with that money. Things like holidays and renovations and new toys for my garden come to mind.

But then I stop and think about all the good things that my favourite charities have done with that money. They have helped people. Lots of people with lots of needs. So although they did the hands-on work, it was because of me and my donation that they were able to do it. And that makes me proud… and humble… and just really really grateful that I got to be a part of changing lives.

You can too – change a life. Donate today. You’ll be happy next year when tax season comes around!

By Joanne Linka, Manager of Communication and Fund Development

Homelessness In Victoria

Homelessness in Victoria is a problem. No one would ever say that the number of people living on our streets is acceptable. Rather, politicians, business people and local agencies work hard, speak often and advocate on behalf of the issue in hopes of finding a solution. More housing. More services. More detox beds. More mental health supports. More.

But what if instead of looking for more, we worked towards less? What if instead of spending tax dollars on treating the problem, we worked on preventing the problem? What if vulnerable people and families were supported before they became homeless? What if services were offered that prevented homelessness rather than put a bandaid on the gaping wound of multiple issues of entrenched homelessness? What would preventing homelessness look like? What would preventing homelessness look like to you?

By Joanne Linka, Manager of Communication and Fund Development

Rain

We’ve had a lot of rain lately, haven’t we? I love the smell of rain! I don’t like what it does to my very curly hair. When it rains, I enjoy staying in and watching a movie with my family or going for a walk in our rain gear, me with my clear birdcage umbrella that reminds me of the one I had as a young girl.
Lately, Linda and I, at The Cridge Respite and Respitality, have been spending time thinking of ideas for things our program parent/s, guardians, or families might like to do throughout the year, some of which we’re hoping we can offer families in the future.

Rainy day activities could include:
• a visit to the library then home to read a book as a family or independently,
• a movie at the theatre, with popcorn of course,
• drop in at your neighbourhood rec centre for a swim where the water is warm,
• have a hot chocolate or a picnic outside at a park shelter and listen to the rain hit the roof,
• try an escape room for the first time,
• be a tourist in your home town,
• spend the night at a local hotel bundled up in a robe,
• visit the museum.
There are a lot of great things to do in our city when it seems like it’s endless rain — try something new, stick with something comfortable, or take time to slow down, relax, and smell the rain!

By Heather Stevens, The Cridge Respitality Services.

To learn more about The Cridge Respitality Services,  please click the link.

Pictures with Santa

The donations and support poured out to Cridge Transition House this Christmas was astounding and made Christmas so special for the women and children who were being sheltered over the holidays.  The heartfelt generosity brought me to tears more than once. In all of the overwhelming, big, gratitude moments, there were also some very special small moments.  In all of the busyness of doing the work and daily living, with Christmas layered on top, I want to tell you about a small moment that took my breath away.

At my own home, I’ve always relished the traditional pictures of kids with Santa displayed prominently on my fridge.  First, it was pictures of my own kids, then grandchildren and the children of my children’s now-adult friends. I don’t know what it is about these pictures – maybe the hopeful, excited faces exuding confidence that they made it to the Nice List and stayed off the Naughty List! Maybe it’s just part of the Christmas magic.  Whatever it is, those pictures cheer me, sustain me, and make me chuckle.

As I rushed through the transition house kitchen on a typically busy December morning, something on the fridge caught my eye.  There was a picture of Santa with two of the little boys currently living at the house, stuck to the fridge door with a magnet.  Knowing these two well, it was amazing in and of itself to see them sitting still long enough to have their picture taken.  But it was sitting with Santa with beaming smiles – the confident Nice List faces – that stopped in my tracks.  Those little faces on the fridge door magically transformed our shelter into a home – a safe place where your child’s picture with Santa belongs.  Like the pictures on my fridge, that picture cheers me, sustains me, and makes me chuckle. And this one reminds me of how blessed I am that a mom who has endured so much, is able to enjoy and share some Christmas magic with me. I wish her many years of a safe, loving home with a fridge covered in Santa pictures.

By Marlene Goley, Manager of The Cridge Transition House for Women

How To Feel Less Lonely This January: Tips For Seniors And Their Families

The 3rd Monday of January is called “Blue Monday”. The term “Blue Monday” was introduced as a marketing strategy to encourage people to buy winter get-away trips. However, in British Columbia, winter months pose serious challenges for the elderly – lousy weather limits mobility, lack of sunlight and isolation create a stark contrast with the recent holiday season when the family is visiting, days are occupied in planning, shopping, and gift-giving. Our world has changed and now many independent-living seniors can’t rely on the closest neighbour’s fellowship like it was so common before.

We asked our manager of The Cridge Seniors’ Services, Sarah Smith, about the best strategies to overcome the feeling of loneliness and isolation. “Visiting is the biggest thing”, Sarah responded. “They need their families!”

For seniors, it is also about learning how to dance in the storm. Here are some other tips that might help to overcome the January Blues.

  1. Talk to your family about it

Sometimes we feel uncomfortable bringing up feelings of sadness and loneliness that we experience. Your family won’t consider it to be a burden and it might make you feel better – the knowledge that you are heard and supported.

  1. Connect with others

Consider joining a club or inviting an old friend over for tea. If it is hard for you to get out of the house, consider dialling the number – you might be surprised how much joy comes from a nice old fashioned chat on the phone.

  1. Create a list of New Years’ resolutions

Write down your thoughts and wishes – this can make a big difference in how you perceive your life. Your goals don’t have to be grandiose – it can be about a few important things: decide to read a new book every month, drink enough water or make new friends – or perhaps you want to learn a new skill! It is never too late to learn something new and exciting.

  1. Make your home safer

Think smart – most of the falls and injuries that occur at home are preventable. Make sure you have a list of all the important phone numbers on your fridge, carry a cell phone with you when going for a walk, keep a working flashlight on the nightstand and make sure that throw rugs are not movable and won’t slip underneath you.

  1. Connect with community services

Many seniors choose to volunteer in a local museum or a charity. In Victoria, community centers offer a variety of senior-oriented activities that will help you to connect with peers and brighten up your day. If you are feeling isolated and overwhelmed, you can always reach out to support services like BC211 or call 811. Here are some other support services that make a difference in our community:

Living Life to the Full – is a free, interactive, facilitated 8-week course for youth, adults, and seniors based on the principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) that improves resilience, mood, well-being, anxiety, and social support. Available in Chinese, French and English. For more information, call 250-216-4228

Seniors Serving Seniors – is a telephone line that provides comprehensive information and referral to resources for seniors available throughout the region. Office and Senior Link hours are 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Thursday. Dial Senior Link at 250-413-3211

I May Be A Bit Grinchy, But I Love Christmas!

Huh?

Let me explain. Somewhere around Halloween, I start avoiding stores. If there are Christmas decorations up in November, I quickly avert my eyes and grumble under my breath. When people start counting down to Christmas in July (you know who you are!), I roll my eyes. And if I hear one more version of “Let it Snow”, I might just scream.

But I LOVE Christmas. I love the smell of Christmas trees, the twinkling of lights and candles, and seeing our Groundskeeper in his Santa hat waving at the kids in our playground. I love the children’s visits to our seniors, bringing songs and hand-made cards and a healthy dose of childish excitement and innocence. But most of all, I LOVE seeing the pure unadulterated joy of the many people who come to our door with their arms loaded full of gifts for our families. There have been more than just a few tears shed, by generous donors, by our staff and most especially by our families.

Here are a few highlights:

A woman called wanting to find a place to donate on behalf of her family. She wanted their gift to make a difference in our community. By the end of the call, she was weeping with gratitude that she and her family would get to make such an impact in the lives of women leaving abusive relationships. Tears and pure joy!

For the second year in a row, a local family has adopted one of our families and created Christmas for them. Not just gifts, but decorations and wrap, gift cards for restaurants, movies and food, and even treats for the cat – all given with pure joy! And the mom who received this bounty… she cried, she was speechless, and perhaps most importantly, she promised that one day she would do the same for a family in need.

Another family, with a few work friends, pooled together their Christmas bonuses and hit Walmart. Their young children helped to choose items that they thought were most important (Peppa Pig toothpaste ranked high on the list!). Bags and bags of love and care – all given with pure joy!

What an incredible honour it is to see the generosity and the JOY with which it is given. So if you are feeling a bit grinchy, and the glitz and tinny music are getting on your nerves, consider giving some joy to someone who needs it. It will bless you more than you can imagine!

By Joanne Linka, Manager of Communication and Fund Development

Getting Through The Holiday Season: Strategies For The Bereaved

During the holidays, it seems that the whole world is caught up with parties and fun. At this time of year, those who grieve may only be aware of the terrible hole in their hearts and their lives.

Here are some suggestions to help make this holiday season easier to handle. Remember that grieving takes energy, so be realistic with your expectations and allow yourself to choose those activities that are most meaningful to you.

PLAN:  Acknowledge that this holiday will be different. Planning is better than a “wait and see” approach.

  • Decide what you can or wish to handle and let family and friends know
  • Prepare responses to questions about how you are doing and how to answer greetings
  • Decide what traditions will stay the same and what will change
  • Consider spending the holiday in a different location
  • Take time for your own self-care and take time to grieve
  • Give yourself permission to cut back on holiday decorations, preparations and gift-giving

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Spend time with people whose company you enjoy, leave an event early, bow out if you need to
  • Make a list of things you would appreciate help with, and use it when family and friends ask if you would like some help
  • Make a shopping list ahead of time so that you can shop on a “good day.”
  • Attend a candlelight memorial service
  • Buy a special decoration for the tree in memory of your loved one
  • Hang a stocking for your loved one and have family and friends fill it with special memories
  • Attend a religious service at a different place or time
  • Place a decoration at the gravesite, or decorate a memorial tree
  • Consider having dinner at an alternative location or time
  • Light a special candle for the table centrepiece in memory of your loved one
  • Propose a toast to the memory of your loved one, and invite sharing of memories
  • Give a gift in memory of your loved one.

How to Give In December And Make Yourself Happy In April

In the midst of this joyous season, let me do you a favour and bring some reality to you. Are you ready?? Brace yourself! TAX SEASON IS COMING! ACK! No one wants to think about income taxes in December! It is such a grinchy thing to do – and yet if you think about it now, your tax return might not be that painful!

If you want to pay less in taxes (and who doesn’t?!?), there is one excellent way to do that. Donate. Find a charity that you love (pick us! Pick us!) and write them a cheque or donate online. It is that simple. Making a donation will give you tax credits that will make you happy in April. The more significant the contribution, the happier you will be! So while you are working hard on buying gifts that will make everyone else happy, do yourself a favour and give a gift that will make you happy! You won’t regret it! And neither will the charity who receives your gift!

Let me make it easy for you! Click here to donate today!

Pro Tip: If you donate online, you will get your receipt by email, which means you can pop it in your TAX file now rather than wait for it to come in the mail!

Victoria’s Housing Crisis: One Woman’s Story

Hopefully, you had a chance to hear the excellent interview on CBC with Candace Stretch on Friday, November 15. Candace spoke eloquently and poignantly about how the current housing crisis in Victoria is impacting women leaving abusive partners.

Following up on Candace’s interview, here is a story about how the housing crisis impacts the women at The Cridge Transition House.

Leslie arrived at The Cridge Transition House on January 13th. Police referred her when they arrested her partner for assaulting her. She arrived with her two children and 3 suitcases. Her 30-day stay was consumed with working with the justice system, applying for income assistance, trying to comfort her children, and looking for a new home to launch a life without violence for her and her children. All these were daunting tasks but the housing search was by far the most arduous.

Leslie was very optimistic when she started her housing search. Her combined income assistance and child tax benefits would give her a monthly income of $2,500. She started looking at 3-bedroom apartments. She quickly realized that 3 bedroom apartments are scarce and expensive – rents started at $2,400 per month. That would leave her only $100 for food, hydro, bus fare, and all the other essentials. Two-bedroom apartments ranged from $1800 to $2000 – that would be tight but doable. But demand is high and Leslie found herself being rejected in favour of couples and families with higher incomes or better references. Landlords wouldn’t even consider renting a one-bedroom or bachelor suite to a family of 3 no matter how willing Leslie was to fit her family into a small unit.

Leslie’s optimism started giving way to despair.

She applied for subsidized housing and second stage housing only to find out that the waitlists were so long there was no way to know when or if anything would ever come available.

As her 30-day stay in the emergency transition house shelter was rapidly coming to an end, the harsh reality of the housing crisis in Victoria loomed large for Leslie. It was no comfort to hear that the near impossibility of securing safe, affordable housing is the experience of so many women trying to escape the violence in their lives. The Cridge Transition House staff would not put Leslie and her children out on the street. But not being able to move women along into safe housing, means the waitlist just gets longer for women needing to come into the transition house.

Safety, urgency, affordability all highlight the need for quick action for more housing that women on very limited incomes can realistically afford.

The lives of hundreds of women and children are depending on it.

First Christmas in Canada

Would you agree that Christmas is a favourite holiday? We start planning in July, decorating in November, sending invitations and buying gifts right after Thanksgiving. So much joy! 

We don’t always remember that for some people Christmas might be a different experience. Have you ever asked yourself how new immigrants and refugees feel at their first Christmas in Canada?

What is it like to move to a new country for a mom with five children, only to find herself isolated, lonely and dependant on an abusive husband? This was the story of one of our women who felt overwhelmed and hopeless. She had just ended a long relationship with her abusive husband, had no job and felt so vulnerable. And the Christmas season just added to the pressure. Her children, inspired by beautifully decorated malls and streets, assumed that Christmas was magic and were waiting for all their dreams to come true, now that they were in Canada. Her children wanted a room full of presents – toys, clothes, and decorations — everything they lost or never had back home that was burned down by war. 

A mother, pressured and overwhelmed, asked her Cridge support worker what should she do? She felt guilty for depriving her children of the joy of Christmas. So she wish-listed every single item of the list her children wrote to Santa (and it was a long list!). How surprised and relieved she felt when every single item from that list was purchased by generous donors from The Cridge Hamper Donor program and her children had their room full of gifts and a real Canadian Christmas!

 

This Christmas season, remember those who are less fortunate than you and share your Christmas joy by making a difference in someone else’s life. If you want to become a secret Santa for our families, email hampers@cridge.org for more information.

By sharing your love, you help children and adults and give them a little (or big) Christmas miracle.

 

This story was shared with us by a manager of The Cridge Supportive Housing. Some details of this story were altered to protect the identity of the family.