This did not prove easy. We found a hotel that accepted small pets and settled in. It was hard to know where to start looking. The Saturday newspapers are the most likely place to find advertisements for rented accommodation. We had the money for a good deposit and enough set aside for six months rent. What we did not expect was the problem of having no 'history'.
Not only did our previous credit records in the USA and UK count for nothing, the very fact that we had been homeowners up until now actually went against us very heavily. We had no renting records with previous landlords, and I have to be honest, there was quite a bit of prejudice shown simply because we were immigrants. I imagine you are saying, 'Why tell anyone you are an immigrant?' The answer is, how else do we explain the lack of previous history?
Fairly quickly we realised that we couldn't keep driving round Winnipeg in a U-Haul. So we had to rent a car and try to make arrangements to buy a vehicle as soon as possible. Meanwhile the hunt for a home continued. We saw some sights! Some really amazing sights. A great many apartments and houses were automatically out of reach because we have pets and a child. Still more were unavailable because we were unemployed. But how do you get a job when you don't have an address, a telephone, somewhere to type up resumes etc.. We desperately needed to find a home.
Following the advice of a friend we decided to start a credit history in Canada. We bought a car. We could have paid cash for the car but by putting down a very substantial deposit we managed to pursuade a car dealer to take a chance (having checked out our credit history in the USA) and give us a car loan. This now meant that we could start to show a history of payments. It also meant we could stop renting a car which was getting awfully expensive. Meanwhile though we were still in a hotel and we still had a rented U-Haul in the parking lot full of all our worldly goods.
This period was a very bleak time for us. We felt very isolated and seriously wondered if we had done the right thing in making the move. Day after day we went out to try to find somewhere to rent. Day after day we were turned down for one reason or another.
Then after two weeks we found something. A choice of three actually. The first was in a fairly nice part of town but a puff of wind would have blown the place apart. It was in terrible shape, and not at all cheap but the landlord was willing to rent to an unemployed immigrant which was definitely a start. However, that afternoon we met with a second landlord who showed us two more properties. Both were much cheaper than the first option and in marginally better shape. The first was quite nice but in an extremely dangerous part of town. It was a house that had been subdivided into apartments. The other apartments were rented by hookers - I am not being unkind to the ladies in question, that really was their occupation. According to the landlord the apartment we were to look at had also been occupied by a lady of the night. We hesitated a lot at this point as you might imagine. I did need to find a way to earn some money but these days I would have to sell my body by the pound to actually do it that way :o) Age and gravity have taken their toll.
Next he showed us another place a few streets away. The area was better - still rough but not quite so dangerous. So there we were. The roof leaked, the basement was flooded, the tap water was an interesting shade of brown and we later discovered our neighbours were all very nice girls who work, if you get my drift. But apart from the fact that the previous tenant apparently left a number of bills outstanding - we got the odd caller who was alright once they realised that I was not she - it was not too bad a place to live. The local school was great for Elliot, although they did not have a lunch program so all children must leave the school premises for the noon hour. (Note we have since learned that this is normal in Winnipeg - but ssems very odd to people coming from the US or UK).
Moving in was fun - please imagine sarcastic note to voice here. We said goodbye to the people at the hotel and drove up in the U-Haul. There were mountains of snow on both side of the street and just the three of us there to unload the furniture. Elliot was wonderful, he may be only have been eleven but he took it in his stride as he carried boxes and chairs into the house wading through knee high snow. Alan and I managed to manipulate our furniture into the place and finally we said farewell to the U-Haul truck.
We had still not unpacked beyond the basic necessities but at least we could start job hunting in earnest. My main priority was to get my net access back. I felt like I had my hands tied until then. The Internet was still in its infancy in winnipeg back then but we did find a provider which actually led to me getting an online job.
Go to Chapter Ten