Long-time family in desperate need of housing

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By RHONAN HEITZMANN

Special to the Driftwood

A long-time island family suffering from sudden onset of ALS is desperately seeking adequate housing by April 30.

Dawn Tarrabain, 47, was diagnosed in April 2017 with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a disease that gradually paralyzes the victim. She now needs a walker or wheelchair to help move about. Dawn was working full time as the front-end supervisor at Country Grocer at the time. She has been an islander for 15 years. Her husband Todd Tamboline, 49, who was also working at Country Grocer as a dairy manager, needed to leave the job to look after her full time. Now they survive off of her disability pension, which covers rent and a few bills, and generous community support.

They received notice mid-January that they must move out by April 30 when their current lease expires (after two years) due to the sale of the house. They were shocked because they had been told by the real estate agent that the buyer would allow them to keep renting, so they had not yet started looking despite knowing the sale had gone through in December.

“It was like getting kicked in the gut,” said Todd, who knew finding another place would be difficult.

Yet they kept up their morale, thinking they still had three months to find something. Having lived on the island for 46 years, they have an extensive network of friends and family and usually word of mouth opens doors. But after 10 weeks of actively searching, spreading word and being enrolled with Island Explorer Property Management, “There is just nothing available anywhere,” said Todd last week. “It’s the first time in 46 years I’ve been scared . . . not to find a place.”

In 10 weeks they saw only one appropriate house listed. When they phoned the listed number within half an hour of its posting but not getting through, Todd left a voicemail. They found out later that the person listing had been out for the day, and had received so many emails it had been rented by the time the voicemail was heard.

Dawn, Todd and their son Jacob, who is 10, are looking for a stand-alone two-bedroom house ideally, with wheelchair access, but they have a ramp, so a few steps would be okay. They currently pay $1,260 per month but would be willing to pay up to $1,500 per month to not miss out on anything. It’s not affordable, but it’s attainable.

Dawn really needs a peaceful nest, where she can feel at home, to heal and cope with the long-term effects of the devastating disease. Ideally they would find a stand-alone house, as shared houses often come with noise and hassles.

The situation is very stressful for the family, not knowing if they will find something in time, hoping that it can be a suitable long-term situation, and this stress and uncertainty has a really negative impact on Dawn’s health. This also impacts heavily on their son Jacob, who needs stability.

”It is very stressful for him not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Todd. “Leaving the island is not a question. All our friends and family are here. The community has been so supportive, it’s mind blowing.”

They would especially like to thank GoFundMe, Country Grocer, the Copper Kettle Society and the Driftwood.

Despite the stress and desperation and uncertainty, the family tries to remain upbeat and hopeful.

“We’re taking it day by day,” said Todd, “That’s our motto . . . something’s going to come around.”

If you have or know of something suitable to help this desperate family in need, please contact them through the Copper Kettle Society at 250-537-5863 or directly at dtarrabain@yahoo.ca.

Rhonan Heitzmann is a member of the Salt Spring Housing Council. This article is part of a series initiated by the council and the Copper Kettle Society highlighting local housing issues.

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