High costs and low rates are pushing B.C. providers who house people with disabilities past their limits
Surrey's Lisa Garner is always on the go.
For the past 20 years, she has worked as a home-share provider offering housing and support to an adult with disabilities.
She cooks and cleans. She helps her client get dressed and groomed.
"I am solely responsible for the individual 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."
But as the cost of living continues to soar across B.C., home-share providers like Garner are being financially stretched to their limit. And they're calling on the provincial government to raise room and board rates that have long remained stagnant.
Home-share providers' compensation is divided into two streams: a contribution from Community Living B.C [CLBC] that varies based on the individual's level of disability support and a room and board contribution of $716 from the individual's monthly benefits.
According to a monthly report from the former Ministry of Social Development and Innovation, $375 of the individual contribution is supposed to cover shelter, leaving $341 for other costs, which breaks down to about $11 a day.
"How are we supposed to feed the clients for the allotment that I get?" asked Garner.
As of December 2022, the cost of food had risen 11 per cent compared to one year earlier, according to Statistics Canada.
The individual contribution rate of $716 hasn't increased since 2007 despite the cost of living soaring.
Garner says she's having to cover the difference personally to ensure her client has everything he needs.
Low rates, rising costs forcing providers to quit
Garner's experience isn't unique.
There are around 4,000 home-share providers in B.C. who support 4,300 people, according to CLBC. There are also another 300 people with disabilities who have requested home-sharing.
Selena Martin, president of the B.C. Home Share Providers Association says providers across the province are struggling under the financial burden.
"When inflation started to go up, it was sort of almost the last straw. People were at the end of their ropes. And now people are finding it hard to make ends meet."
She says it's forcing some providers to leave the industry altogether because they simply can no longer afford it. Meanwhile, the demand for home-share providers outweighs the supply.
And Garner says leaving is not a decision home-share providers choose easily.
"It's not a job. It's already gone so far past a job that the person becomes part of your household, part of your family," she said.
The association is calling on the province and CLBC to increase the room and board individual contribution rates and to provide home-share providers with yearly compensation increases that match the rate of inflation so they can continue to provide support for people with disabilities. It's also calling for increases in disability assistance rates. Right now, people with disabilities earn $1,358 a month.
"People on PWD [person with disabilities] do not get enough money. They live in poverty, and their family and their caregivers are trying to lift them out of poverty, and it's coming out of their pockets, the caregivers and the families," she said.
CLBC reviewing room and board costs
Martin's plea is echoed by B.C. Liberal MLA Dan Davies, shadow minister of social development and poverty reduction, who says he hears from home-share providers regularly.
"These, in many cases, are the most vulnerable people who are being cared for," said Davies.
"We need to make sure that the people who are caring for these people are also cared for so that we can still maintain a system that is reliable, a system that works, and a system that is going to be sustainable into the future."
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction declined an interview and did not respond to specific questions, but in a statement, Minister Sheila Malcolmson thanked home-share providers for their work and said she is taking their concerns seriously.
"Home-share providers' in-home support is integral to an inclusive province that supports the participation of people with disabilities in their community," she said.
In 2019 and 2020, there were increases to the compensation home-share providers receive from CLBC, which now ranges from $1,716 a month to $5,641 a month. But the individual contribution rate has remained unchanged.
CLBC also declined an interview deferring to the province.
The ministry also said that CLBC is currently reviewing compensation for room and board costs.