KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The other day I met this young woman who is on income assistance, and who nonetheless keeps having a positive attitude and remains full of hope that someday she will get off the system. Her life is hard, and Community Services isn’t making it any easier for her.
Like so many others who depend on income assistance this person does not want to be publicly identified.
She receives the standard $535 shelter allowance and the standard $275 personal allowance. Also she receives $78 for a bus pass. Her rent is $600 a month and her power bill is $50 a month. She pays $30 a month for minutes on her cell phone. So after she pays all of that she has $130 a month left to live on.
She has asked for a special diet allowance, but that got denied, even though she had the letters from her doctor. That happens a lot, and it is often most unfair, as I explain in this older story I wrote for the Halifax Media Co-op.
She has mild issues with depression and has been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD as a kid. She grew up in a small town in Ontario and she moved to Halifax when she turned 19. Some very painful things happened to her when she was young that made her want to move this far.
She tried to get accepted into the Career Seek program, a program that offers support for people on income assistance who want to take post secondary education.The program would not accept her. When the career seek program made the decision to not accept her, Community Services would not allow her to through the appeals process so she could not appeal that decision.
Anyway, here in Halifax she has applied for a zillion jobs and she could not get hired anywhere.
In order to keep herself out of social isolation, a challenge for many if not most who live in poverty, she resorted to going to the drop-ins and soup kitchens. However she is also a person who is very specific of who she gets in with, and she found form her personal experiences of attending those places that she was not making good friendships.
So what she did was she started checking out different churches and she found one she really likes. So she started attending regularly. The main reason she goes is because she needs that couple of hours to be out and socializing with like-minded people. Until she started attending that church having like minded people in her life in something she felt she lacked.
She had been going to that church for coming on three years and within the past year she started volunteering there. Her volunteer work is what is keeping her $78 allowance for her bus pass safe.
She shared with me that she would like to have friends who are closer to her age. We agree that getting out in the community and going to school or having a job is the appropriate way to keep out of social isolation. Also, it is much better way then depending on soup kitchens and drop-ins. She considers volunteering at the church as her temporary solution to achieve keeping out of social isolation. She worries about how in her future she is going to go about meeting people.
When she first came to Halifax, during her first year in this city she lived in a rooming house with seven men. She was not comfortable with being the only woman living in that house and she moved out as soon as she found her own place.
She ended up moving to Dartmouth North in order to find affordable rent. She describes her building as one building that from the outside “you can tell is not maintained. Many other buildings surrounding her look the same way. She really wants to move. Whenever she can, she stays away from her apartment from the first bus that leaves in the morning right through until the last bus back at night. I used to do that myself when i lived in Dartmouth North.
She wants to go back to school and study social work. When you are on income assistance, the only way you can go back and get a student loan is if you get accepted into the Career Seek program. People who gotten to know her through her church have offered to write letters for her. But with all the red tape that is involved with Community Services I would not be surprised if even after those reference letters they end up not helping her out at all.
Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
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