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Social assistance dispute may close Lower Sackville safe place for LGBTQIA+ youth

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A dispute between the owner of a popular comic books store in Lower Sackville and Community Services is putting the store’s continuing existence in jeopardy. The store does double-duty as a rare safe place for 2SLGBTQIA+ youths in suburban Halifax.

Jay Aaron Roy, of Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles. Photo Robert Devet

“This place has come to mean a lot to the community,” says Jay Aaron Roy, owner of Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles. ”Rainbow youths drop in, we do birthday parties, community events, I like to use comics to get kids to relearn how to love to read.”

“People have taken ownership of the space. It’s a family, a community,” says Roy, who has a large room in the back of the store dedicated to the outreach activities. The space is named the Leighann Wichmann Safe Space, after the comic books-loving founder of the Youth Project.

Things were never easy, but until now Roy was able to pay his bills and eke out an existence. The store opened in September 2014.

How much longer the store will be able to stick around is anybody’s guess.

Photo Robert Devet

The difficulties with Community Services go back about a year when Roy invited his friend Brittany to share his apartment. What started as a roommate arrangement eventually turned into a relationship.

My partner lives with some mental health issues and was on social assistance, but after she became my roommate they cut her allowance in half. As of April 1st they are cutting her off completely,” says Roy. “It is not her fault, but it is causing a lot of problems. I have a one hundred percent dependent now, and it is not something I can afford.”

Dealing with Community Services has been a nightmare, Roy tells the Nova Scotia Advocate. Just to get their caseworker to return phone calls is a major effort, says Roy, who describes the worker as not a good listener and unprofessional.

With support by Dalhousie Legal Aid and the constituency worker of a local MP the couple is fighting back. It looks like they may be able to apply for social assistance as a couple, but whether Community Services will approve their application remains to be seen.  

If something doesn’t happen soon the store will almost certainly close, says Roy, and Lower Sackville will lose the only place where many rainbow youths and other kids  feel welcome and supported.  

The store is struggling as it is, says Roy, who has poured his heart and soul into the business.  

“I can’t afford to be closed for a single business day. This is not a little wrinkle, this is a major crisis,” Roy says.

Check out the Cape and Cowl’s Facebook page. Probably the best thing you can do to support Jay at this time is to give this wonderful store a visit.

If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A pay wall is not an option for us, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on occasional one-time donors and a group of 25 or so dedicated monthly sustainers.

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for bringing Jay’s story to the public. I know Jay very well and I too have had the same social worker and have had similar problems Two years ago just as I was diagnosed with cancer of the bile ducts, they
    cut my cheque by $200.00 just before Christmas. That was partly my transportation money. Getting to my doctor appts. was essential if I wanted a positive outcome. My doctor told them that I had several other health issues and cannot work. I am a mother of two sons, the oldest has autism, mast cell disease, a seizure disorder and requires many medical procedures every month …he is 33.
    My youngest is 31, and also has life threatening health issues.He has mast cell disease, and Ehler’s-Danlos disease. He works and lives here with his brother and I. He does this so his brother and I won’t be homeless. He tells me it is his way of saying thank you for raising them on my own…for giving up everything for them.
    He knows that we can’t live on $924.00 a month.
    My rent alone is more than I get, then add power and water…which social services doesn’t cover. I get $115.00 a month for food. It doesn’t go far. Besides cancer, I also have Ehler’s-Danlos disease , rheumatoid arthritis and. Diabetes.
    My brother passed away two months ago and he worked his whole life, he was self employed, he also counselled people with addictions for 30+ years. Last year when he was struck down with cancer, he lost everything, his apartment he lived in for 25 years , his furniture and his car. I went everywhere to get him help…social services refused to help him at all. Soul’s Harbour helped him with food and clothing. This past January he lost one more thing…his life.
    Yeah, cancer won….but maybe if he hadn’t had all those stressors in his life, or healthy food to eat, or hadn’t walked miles in the freezing cold and snow to get groceries and doctor appt. he’d still be here.
    I know what Jay and Brittany are going through. I wrote letter after letter , after letter to politicians, head of Community Services…no luck.
    They just don’t care…but to degrade us, yell at us, threaten us on top of it all…these people need to walk a mile in our shoes.
    Not all social workers are to blame.I have met some who have huge hearts, are compassionate, understanding. Its not our fault that we are where we are in life. Some of us have had our lives stolen…and the thieves are out there walking around free.
    Jay has done amazing things with that little space, he has given back to the community. He was the first one to come forward with a donation for our silent auction so we can lay our brother in his final resting place.
    They have a right to be treated like human beings.
    Social Services needs to change how they do things and how they treat people.

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  2. I’m a 43 yr old women that has worked my whole life almost two yrs ago I came down with medical problems. I have two specialist and my family Dr saying I am unable to work…. Yet social services has denied me help????? I live alone yes I have a boyfriend but I didn’t think that was a reason to deny me help. What is a person to do????

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  3. I also know Jay and how very hard he works to keep his business going. It is a daily struggle but he seems to keep coming up with anything and everything it takes to keep his doors open. I find it very difficult to understand why any human who is on assistance would be cut off completely, when they have medical proof they are in need of help. Also, if someone on assistance lives as a boarder or tenant, do they get cut off money and expect the owner of the house to be responsible for them? Everyone needs money to live these days and if they are sharing expenses with someone it should help more than if assistance had to give out more money to live alone. I know sometimes the system is abused, but with justifiable medical issues I cannot seem to grasp why someone would be completely cut off assistance and why the system feels that a partner needs to take full responsibility, especially in this case where the partner is struggling every day to keep a business alive. Next thing they will both be forced on assistance of some kind, which would be more money than if assistance just helps the one individual that has medical issues have some kind of quality of life. Why would anyone want to drive another small business to the ground when it benefits so many people, both young and old. I hope someone can help these young people with the issue.

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  4. Makes me sick that there right there to help people who abuse the system but the people who are honest and need it the most have the worst time getting anything out of them, I have a friend that needed them just for a couple months and told them as soon as she could get a job she would not need them, as soon as she reported she had a job they investigated her and said she had a man living with her and they went to her home where she lived with 2 children only and could clearly see that and then made her pay them back for the short term help they gave her and said she would never be able to receive assistance again, so sorry to hear jay you are a great person who does a lot for our community

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  5. Recently found out I have to get back surgery with intensive physiotherapy. I had to leave my job less than a week ago because I couldn’t deal with the pain of sitting in a chair all day. My doctor continues to tell me not to work but if I don’t I will be homeless. I’m 23 years old with not much of an option to do anything. I contacted social assantance and told them about my case, they informed me that I will not qualify for disability assistance because I’m currently in a relationship.

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  6. Even with just a roommate, you cannot receive help. Say you had to leave your job and were already living in a place with a roommate, that person then has to support you or you have to move out and try to find somewhere to live with only 535 for rent and utilities (can hardly be done with a roommate, let alone by yourself). Then you pretty much have to stay single the entire time you’re on assistance or find someone who will support you because you can’t work (most times it leads to very abusive relationships).
    I don’t understand our government at all. They don’t want to support people in poverty, but they don’t want to put better policies in place to help people get out either.
    And you’re pretty much f’d if you have a child with no spouse. They even take your child support (If you get it) away from you so you cannot even provide extra for your child with the money the father sends specifically for the child. So guess what? No daycare to find work or stay at a job. No nutritional meals, no Christmas or birthday presents unless you take it from food money (which is half gone from having to pay extra for housing or bills)
    Nova Scotia government needs to step up and do something to help people.
    The cost of rent and housing keeps increasing in big amounts every year but the income assistance hasn’t changed since 2001!!!!! What sense does that even make!!

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