Just two weeks after a c-section birth of her second child, Caitlyn watched helplessly as her basement filled with water during the November floods.
While the water eventually subsided, the damage was done and their furniture, baby clothes and other items in storage were destroyed. The family’s furnace was unsafe to use as it was leaking carbon monoxide. With repair companies overwhelmed, they had to live for two weeks in a freezing home.
To add to their stress, their landlord was not being cooperative in making the necessary repairs.
“On top of everything, it was just another stick in the spokes,” Caitlyn says of their landlord’s unwillingness to restore the house to safe living conditions.
It was a hard time to find new housing as hundreds of others were in similar situations. Hotels and motels were full, and some individuals had resorted to living in their cars. Caitlyn went through weeks’ worth of Craigslist’s postings and called everywhere. She ended up finding an old listing for a house they had previously lived in.
She reached out to their old landlord to see if the home was available and explained their situation. She also asked for a reduction in the rent as it was out of their budget. The landlord had almost finalized another lease agreement but agreed to let Caitlyn and her family rent it instead at the requested price.
“It was like coming home,” said Caitlyn. “When everything else was upside down it was so comforting to have the familiar walls of our old home.”
Caitlyn lives with her partner, two daughters, her mother and mother-in-law. They had originally moved out of the home as it was too small for their family but are making it work.
Photo taken during the November 2021 flooding in Abbotsford.
Photo Credit: Abbotsford Police Department
Best for Babies
After moving to BC three years ago, Caitlyn had been referred to the Best for Babies group for support with her first pregnancy. She built friendships that have lasted to this day.
Best for Babies offers weekly groups, information on all aspects of pregnancy and parenting as well as nutritional support.
Caitlyn joined Best for Babies again during her second pregnancy and turned to them for help during the flooding.
Liz Kahle, the program coordinator was able to offer several resources along with a safe space to talk.
Liz reached out to Christian Life Community Church who sent volunteers to help clean out the basement and do numerous dump runs. The church’s pastor also brought them snacks and dinner for a few nights.
“That relieved so much stress and it was encouraging to see complete strangers willing to help,” said Caitlyn.
Since their home wasn’t in the main areas of flooding, they were never issued a provincial evacuation order which meant they weren’t able to access some supports like the Red Cross funding.
“Our support came from the community instead which was wonderful but sad at the same time,” said Caitlyn.
Best for Babies was able to donate items like clothing, baby bottles and a bassinet which took the immediate sense of emergency off their plate.
“For the first six months, they pretty much supplied almost everything we needed.”
A friend of her dads collected toys, clothing and books at her real estate office.
In the midst of the flooding crisis, Caitlyn was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a condition exacerbated by stress. She experienced hives, welts and rashes and at its peak was going into anaphylactic shock every 2-3 weeks.
The health condition meant she was unable to breastfeed her baby and required a strict diet.
Standard food bank hampers weren’t suitable because of her dietary concerns, so Liz was able to direct her to other resources including a dietician consult.
The family was able to access gift cards for groceries and gas and choose food from The Pantry at Gateway Church, which partners with the Archway Food Bank and donors.
One of the most helpful resources was the referral to the Gathering Markit, a non-profit grocery story. When the store opened in December 2021, Best for Babies was one of the organizations able to refer families for membership.
Along with low-cost produce and grocery items, the store offers meal kits for $5 that can feed a family of four. These are designed to take the stress out of budgeting and meal planning. Through donations and government grants, flood affected families were given weekly $35 gift cards through the initial months.
“Because the prices are so reasonable, the $35 spending cap was more than enough for our family of six,” said Caitlyn. “Having the choice of what we’re getting means there’s less waste because we’re buying according to what our needs are.”
Both the Pantry and the Gathering Market are still offering help for flood affected families as of the summer of 2022. During this summer, Caitlyn was also able to access the Farmers Market Nutrition coupon program which Best for Babies distributes. The coupon program is funded through a provincial grant in partnership with the BC Association of Farmers Markets.
“It’s hard to think about where we would be without Best for Babies,” said Caitlyn. “I feel like we would have struggled a lot more. The food resources and gift cards were one of the main reasons I stayed sane.”
Liz credits Caitlyn for being proactive in following up on the resources and building relationships within the community.
“She’s been so resilient despite her health condition, caring for two small children and being a caregiver for her mom and mother-in-law,” said Liz.
The stress of the move and new diagnosis heightened Caitlyn’s anxiety and she was able to access free mental health resources through the Abbotsford Mental Health – Rapid Access clinic soon after the flooding.
In April, when Caitlyn finally felt like she had a free hour to herself, she signed up for counselling to further address her anxiety. Her counselling was through the Cares Counselling Society which is one of the organizations providing free counselling to those affected by the flooding.
“My anxiety had gotten very bad after the flood, move and COVID,” explained Caitlyn. “It felt like everything was happening to us and we had no control over the road ahead.”
Her counsellor was able to help her reframe the challenges and encouraged her that rather than asking “why is this happening to me?” to instead ask “why is this happening for me?”
“That’s taken away a fair bit of my anxiety and helping me see it as something I can grow from even if it’s not an ideal situation.”
Ongoing Effects of Flooding
Caitlyn and her family are still working to get back on their feet.
“Any money we had squirreled away, COVID took. We were getting back on track and then the flooding took it,” explains Caitlyn.
“It seems impossible to save any money right now because of gas prices, inflation, and the recession. We’re sitting in this limbo of sorts waiting to see if we can come up for air or if this is the new normal.”
Liz remembers when Caitlyn first attended Best for Babies the family was financially stable and often giving away items to other group participants.
“It’s been a humbling experience to go from one end of the spectrum to the other,” said Caitlyn. “I’m very grateful for the people who donate to these programs.”
“I know that there are way more families needing this support. Whatever it is that families need, Best for Babies is able to point your compass in the right direction.”