KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Readers may remember the stories I wrote last year about a woman who had nobody to take care of her while recovering from surgery, how the community came through for her, while nightly check ups by the police were not at all appreciated.
We can be thankful that these experiences are now over and done with, and that her life is back to normal.
Well, the thing is, she is still an income assistance recipient, which means that “life back to normal” for her is not the same as when life gets back to normal for financially better off people.
She is excited to have her free bus pass, but when she gets on the bus other passengers are bawling her out for being unemployed. They ask her the question like if you are are able to take the bus to go to the drop-ins everyday, then why are you are not able to get a job? When she tells them that getting out of her apartment is good for her mental health that only adds fuel to the fire.
On the first day she used her income assistance bus pass, an older lady who was sitting behind her tapped her on the shoulder and asked her, “so I am wondering what you are up to today?”
When she answered “heading downtown to attend drop-ins where people in my situation go during the daytime,” the older lady then raised her voice, got rude with her and said “Ok, if you get on the bus in Clayton Park area and head downtown during the day then why can’t you go out and get a job?”
At that point an older gentlemen who was sitting two seats behind got interested in the conversation. He got right in her face and accused her of “just wanting to ride the bus to be lazy.”
The next day, using that same bus and catching it at the exact same time as day one, passengers rudely asked “How much of your welfare cheque money do you spend on drinking and gambling?” and one girl who was on the bus asked her “ How was your day at the casino while other on welfare were sitting in their homes being lazy like they always are?”
She felt like answering that question by cursing at them, but knew that she couldn’t do that while on the bus. Also the same older lady asked her the question “did you start looking for work yet?”
She was not long before ringing the bell and getting off at the next stop. After all, she was annoyed.
She tells me that the passengers when she catches the bus outside her apartment building are strong believers in the welfare stigma. They are the same passengers day after day when she boards the bus at the same time each day.
Anyway, what she ended up doing is walk 10 minutes away from where she lives to catch a different bus at a nearby bus terminal.
The thing is, she cannot work due to her mental health issues and disabilities. She visits the various drop-ins, soup kitchens and programs because of their mental health benefits. We both agree that people such as those bus passengers she got stigmatized by have to understand that some disabilities preventing people from working are invisible.
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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