“We believe filing a tax return is one of the first steps someone can take to help them get back on their feet," says Christianne. "Even if we just were able to help one person, this program would be considered a success to us.”
Christianne, Marketing Manager of H&R Block Canada, has been leading their Returning Hope program, which helps Mustard Seed clients with their tax returns. The program provides them with free tax preparation and filing services – and what makes this program especially unique is that the tax experts come to our guests! Mustard Seed clients are able to access tax filing services all in the comfort of our Health & Wellness Centres.
“It is important for Canadians to file their taxes,” says Christianne. “It grants them an opportunity to discover benefits that they may have otherwise not known about.”
Since The Mustard Seed partnered with H&R Block through the Returning Hope program in 2017, their tax experts have helped our clients file any missed returns from up to ten years ago and claim all benefits they may be entitled to. The program is offered in all Mustard Seed locations, including Calgary, Edmonton, Kamloops, Medicine Hat, and Red Deer. This year, H&R Block completed 428 returns with 269 clients who received missed refunds/credits.
“Every time I have dealt with H&R Block they have been very kind and have always (helped) if I have any questions,” says Debborah, a Mustard Seed client. “They are approachable, the people that do the intake for you. I had the most wonderful experience with Guru (a tax expert from H&R Block,)… It really puts me at ease… and I really enjoyed the time that we did spend together.”
Debborah first came to The Mustard Seed in 2021 through the Diversion program at our shelter. She is now housed at our 1010 Centre in Calgary and continues to receive support from our Wellness Centre's advocates.
“He got me back money that I didn't know that I could get back,” says Debborah. “I didn't even know I was entitled to that $500 one-time house benefit.”
Those experiencing homelessness need to file their taxes too
Lack of proper government identification, not having a permanent home address, and not having access to a computer are some of the roadblocks that prevent those experiencing homelessness from filing their taxes. The Mustard Seed is able to offer a home address for guests to receive their refund and benefit cheques, while H&R Block tax experts can help guests file their taxes and get the refunds they deserve.
This partnership ensures that the clients of The Mustard Seed are not missing out on access to essential federal and provincial government tax credits and programs. This includes the GST/HST credit, employment insurance, the Canada Child Benefit, disability tax credits, the Canada Workers Benefit, and many more.
Receiving a tax return can help our clients make significant life changes. It can be money that goes towards paying first and last month's rent, groceries, or celebrating milestones with loved ones like Debborah who hopes to use some of her tax returns towards throwing her grandchild a dream birthday party.
Thank you to H&R Block for their continual support and compassion for our community. This partnership is vital in our pursuit to eliminate homelessness and reduce poverty where we serve.