In the summer following the first lockdown, I lost my job and got evicted all in a matter of weeks
It was a warm, summer day in June. I woke up, put on a glamorous outfit (the only time I ever dressed up was for work), and walked 15 minutes to my retail job. I never thought I would enjoy a job like that, but getting close to customers and clientele turned out to be more fun and exciting than I ever expected.
Not only that, but I was great at my job. I got promoted a few months earlier, and it was great working with some amazing coworkers. Getting back into the swing of things after months of lockdown and uncertainty was beyond exciting.
I worked a full eight-hour shift that day. I couldn’t wait to get home to kick my feet up, see my little cat and watch a movie with my boyfriend. But my day was ruined by an overstuffed envelope that ripped everything from me.
A few hours before I came home, my boyfriend heard a knock on the door. The landlord and his wife were standing there holding the same big envelope with a clipboard. The landlord introduced himself, handed him the envelope, asked my partner to sign the clipboard and moved on to the next apartment, off to do the same procedure to the next unsuspecting tenant.
The envelope was thick, with more than 10 papers. The first letter read something along the lines of,”We know it is a very tough time for everyone right now because of COVID-19. People are in financial distress but your building is being torn down. We’re sorry. You have until October to leave.”
I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say or where to begin. Our first home together was gone.
I had just returned to work after multiple lockdowns. I was off for a few months, thinking I’d be going back to a stable job and would have nothing to worry about. My boyfriend got laid off about a month before we got evicted due to the pandemic, and was in the midst of finding a job himself. Without any financial support from our parents, living paycheque to paycheque, and myself as a student, we tried to find ways to make it work.
We moved into that building in February 2019. When we moved in, the landlord told us that we had five years before the building was being torn down. Knowing that we had enough time for me to complete my degree at Ryerson, we settled into the apartment. It was going to be our home until I was done school and we could move.
It was our first home as a couple. It wasn’t just a place to live – there were memories there. The place where we brought our first pet. The place where we began our journey together. The first place I got to hang our pictures on the wall.
Just a bit after getting the eviction notice, the company I was working for closed indefinitely. I had no job, and soon no place to live. But the City of Toronto bought the buildings to build a condominium in their place, leaving hundreds of us without a home.
Tearing a building down during a pandemic, earlier than planned, felt like a slap in the face. How could I move out safely? Knowing that hiring a moving company is not the safest option during a pandemic.
My mom, who lives two hours away from the city, in a small town with almost no COVID-19 cases, had to risk her health and safety to help us move because the two of us could not do it on our own.
In the span of about two months, I lost my job and had to scrounge enough money for first and last month’s rent for a new apartment. To be evicted and jobless during the pandemic is something I never thought would happen to me. The life that I had known suddenly changed. My stable home and income changed in a matter of weeks. I felt hopeless, scared of the future, and unsure of what a move meant during COVID-19.
I pride myself on being someone who works hard for the money I earn. I have never asked my parents for money, and the only loan I had taken out was for school. But without a steady flow of income, and paying for groceries, rent and utilities seemed more stressful than what it used to be. I collected what I had in my savings – money I was hoping would pay off my student debt – and set off to find a new place to live.
I spent hours a day on my phone looking for vacant units. I looked on Kijiji, rental sites and Facebook – anywhere you can find an apartment. I made phone call after phone call, trying to find us another home.
Seeing apartments during COVID-19 is a bit unconventional. For some building tours, we were completely alone. Many times we were told to just walk right into rental suites without a guide.
For me, the thought of homelessness was not something that crossed my mind, because of the optimism I had that everything would be alright in the end. But, hundreds of people were now looking for a place to live in a short amount of time. With the stress and fear of the unknown, I knew I was not the only person feeling that way.
Though we were lucky enough to find a place in the same neighborhood, unfortunately it was way more expensive than what we have been used to.
To this day, I am still in shock. Everyone living in that building was pretty much dumped on the streets, to figure things out for themselves and find a home, including some who lived there for years. The elderly lady who we used to help bring in groceries for, was the most memorable neighbour who was kicked to the curb like us. She used to sit out front, smiling and reading a book. But they didn’t care about the people who were affected.
I wonder what happened to her, just like I wonder what happened to everyone else who was evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic.