Every week Angel Twetd sends out letters in hopes of a miracle.
Diagnosed last year with multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair, she writes to MS societies, home-renovation shows, and politicians.
Her message is always the same: Her Maple Ridge home needs to be refitted for her to take care of her two-year-old daughter Elle and, between medications and mortgage payments, there simply isn’t the money.
“I can’t play on the floor with my daughter,” Twetd said.
“I can’t help her bathe. I have to sponge-bathe every day. I just want to live with dignity.”
Twetd, 40, thought her prayers were answered in January when the B.C. government announced the Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI) program, which provides up to $20,000 for renovations that promote “accessible, safe, and independent living” for seniors and people with disabilities.
But the provincial government has denied her application twice, due to requirements that the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities say are overly stringent.
To be eligible, a person must have less than $100,000 in household assets and be below the average household income for the area – criteria that Twetd’s family met.
But their home also has to be worth less than the regional average, and Twetd’s $416,000 home was valued at more than the $388,000 limit for the Fraser Valley.
She said the rejection by HAFI was crushing to her and her husband, who works on the Alberta oilfields to cover their bills.
“My husband needs to pay the mortgage, and my medications are $62 a day. We can’t afford these renovations on our own,” she said.
Robin Loxton, advocacy director for the coalition, said the well-intentioned program needs to be examined.
“Obviously, if you have income or assets to cover your needs, that’s reasonable,” Loxton said. “But sometimes, if you’ve lived in the family home for years, and that’s where you are, to have the average assessed value as being part of the picture seems to be unreasonable…” Loxton added. “This needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”
Loxton said that denying applications based on a home’s value can be unfair because it’s often a poor measure of a person’s wealth.
B.C. Housing vice-president Wendy Acheson said: “All applications are evaluated within the same criteria, which allows for fairness, transparency, and consistency.”
More than 250 applications have been approved to date, Acheson said.
Twetd has spoken to her MLA, Liberal Marc Dalton, in hopes of getting assistance.
But his constituency assistant cautioned that “this isn’t going to happen quickly.”
“[Her] case will take some time, if a change can be made at all,” he said.
In the meantime, Twetd and her family wait.
“I’m just sad. It’s unfair that there’s no programs for people like me, that slip through the cracks,” she said.
– Justin McElroy is with The Province