The Amins’ Story

How a household of love and a little help from HUP can go a long way

* Participants asked to share their story anonymously. All names in this story have therefore been changed to respect the participants’ privacy.

In Edmonton, an older bungalow with a 23-year-old furnace and poorly insulated attic is what a tight-knit household calls home. Although love runs deep in this house, its energy bills run high, causing some worry and concern.

This house is home to an elderly mother and two of her adult children. All but one of the three is able to work. Samir, who is employed as a janitor, brings home a modest income to support his 92-year-old mother and one of his sisters who is currently on disability income. When Samir’s other sister, Sasha, heard about the program, she helped her mother apply. For years she has remained on the lookout for new programs and initiatives to help her loved ones save money.

An average power and gas bill for the Amins is about $500 a month, with the highest they’ve paid being $750 — a pretty steep number when two of the three adults in the home are not able to work.

“They are both on minimum wage and with everything going up, it’s hard,” explains Sasha.

Sasha’s mother and sister immigrated to Canada together from Syria in the early 1990s. During that time, they lived with Sasha and saved up enough money to buy a home. But now, as Sasha’s mother ages, care for the home, bills, and everyday tasks has become increasingly difficult.

Day-to-day responsibilities and concerns often fall on Sasha’s and her brother’s shoulders. She describes the constant worry that another energy bill will be too high and how at times the family stops heating rooms to reduce costs. The pair do the best they can to limit expenses and keep up with household maintenance, but it’s not an easy task when dealing with an older bungalow.

“You delay it, and you try to fix it for as long as you can,” says Sasha. “My brother really takes care of [the furnace]. He maintains it and he changes the filter but you know, it’s been almost 23 years, so it was on the tail end of its life.”

Still, the Amins have a strong household unit. Sasha and her brother help protect their mother, and nieces and nephews frequently visit to keep her company. “We want to make sure she stays as long as possible in the house because that’s the best thing for her,” explains Sasha.

It was through their family that the Amins learned about the Home Upgrades Program (HUP). Sasha’s niece had heard about it at work and immediately thought of her grandma. Today, Sasha’s mother is a participant in the program and the bungalow has received a range of upgrades that will improve the home’s energy efficiency.

Thanks to the program, the 23-year-old furnace has been replaced with a  high-efficiency model. The program also provided attic insulation, air sealing, smoke detectors, and LED light bulbs — all upgrades that will lower the Amins’ energy bill.

Since the Amins speak Arabic, they were pleased to connect with an Arabic-speaking staff member who helped them through the application process. They've since referred others to the program after their positive experience.

“Russ, [HUP’s Edmonton construction manager,] is awesome to deal with. He’s very friendly and easy to approach with anything, and gets back to you with good timing,” says Sasha. “I’ve already told two other families who have applied.”

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