Denyse’s Story

“It’s better than Christmas,” says an Edmonton homeowner after receiving free home upgrades

With the cost of living continuing to increase, Denyse, a former community support worker, has considered coming out of retirement. She enrolled in a first aid course at the Food Bank, while exploring the possibility of pursuing respite work. Afterwards, while waiting for a ride home, she spotted a poster pinned to the local bulletin board. She laughs, recounting how she did a double take, then questioned her vision. The poster offered free home upgrades for Edmonton homeowners struggling with their energy bills, and she thought, well that’s me.

“I’m a senior. I’m not working, so that means my pension – that's it,” Denyse explains, quick to follow-up that she also recognizes how lucky she is. “It’s not a complaint,” she continues. “I’m lucky... like I can eat, I can make ends meet. But it’s getting harder. I want to be able to keep driving, too. Like, am I going to have to give up my car?”    

Denyse’s utility bills have inched up to around $500 a month, and while she remains cost-conscious, coupons and other cost-saving measures only carry her so far. Pointing to a beautiful pair of handsewn moccasins gifted to her on Mother’s Day, she shares the many ways in which she tries to save money and stay warm.

“I walk around with a down vest because I kept my heat down. And a blanket at night because it’s cold,” she says, admitting to lowering the heat to around 15 degrees Celsius during the nights and 17 degrees during the day.

She also struggles with asthma, a condition often exacerbated by cold air.

Still, Denyse finds joy in her day-to-day life. She unlocks her phone to show a picture of Edmonton’s newest animal residents – pelicans – and tells of her recently acquired interest in birding. This, in addition to her passion for gardening, which she works on with her adult son. Together, they plant mostly vegetables and strawberries upon her son’s request.  

Though her son lives in Edmonton, Denyse has lived alone for nearly thirty years. Her granddaughter, a talented fancy dancer who is “13 going on 20,” also spends time with Denyse; during her visits, Denyse turns the heat up to ensure her family’s comfort.  

“It’s better than Christmas,” says Denyse, re-expressing her gratitude for the Home Upgrades Program.

After researching the program’s funders and partners prior to applying, Denyse now refers friends and actively champions the program in her community. She looks forward to a more comfortable home after receiving free home upgrades, including new attic insulation and a high-efficiency hot water tank.  

The program is made possible thanks to the generosity of our funding partners: Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, the City of Calgary, the City of Edmonton, ENMAX, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, Suncor Energy Foundation, and Calgary Foundation.

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