Community campaign raises money to keep Toronto man in his home

Seventy-year-old Bryan Bowler’s basement apartment in Toronto isn’t big, but to him, it’s home.

Things haven’t been easy in the last few months. At the end of September Bowler has to find a new place to live.

“I lost my job, and I lost my wife, and my wife died, and old age dropped me by about $400,” Bowler said.

“I took a lot of drops and everything … so I’m going to have to give up the place.”

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Bowler says he worked in the kitchens and did light maintenance at a retirement home … a position he gained through a temp agency.

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According to the agency, when COVID-19 hit, his hours were cut. He was on contract and considered an on-call worker. Since then Bowler has not been able to find work.

When he realized his home was in jeopardy, his biggest concern was not for his own welfare. Instead, he was worried about his two cats, Garfield and Misty.

“I want them to have a good home and be taken care of … [and someone] to tell them you love them maybe as much or more than I do,” Bowler said through tears.

In order to find help, Bowler put up flyers in the neighbourhood. He was hoping someone would see the ad, and take his cats and give them a home together.

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The flyers caught the attention of Devon Burgess while she was on her way to work. The story tugged at her heartstrings, and she felt like she had to do something.

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Burgess created a simple GoFundMe page that quickly gained traction. Donations poured in, and in a matter of days, thousands of dollars had been raised.

“It’s been so dark, and so many bad things have happened this year,” Burgess said. “Just one good thing is really inspirational.”

Bowler’s unemployment situation is not unique.

Many people have found themselves out of work since the pandemic started.

In Canada, the unemployment rate held steady in July and August. For people 55 years and older, the unemployment rate was at 8.8 per cent each month.

When comparing August 2020 to August 2019, there was an increase of four percentage points.

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Economists say this trend is not surprising and has been spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“There are just not enough jobs, not enough jobs thanks to COVID, and they are the first people being let go of their jobs,” economist Eric Kam said. “Elderly people are particularly at risk.”

With support from the campaign, things are looking up for Bowler for the near future.

Bowler says he plans to use the money raised to find a cheaper apartment and to keep his cats by his side for as long as he can.

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