KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Maria (not her real name) is a woman who has lived in Halifax for well over 10 years. She has been an income assistance recipient for only the past four years. She moved to Halifax from the Yukon with her now ex-boyfriend.
“Kendall, I shared a home with my partner, and we had a comfortable income from my partner’s job and a settlement I received earlier,” she says.
It didn’t last.
After several years in Halifax, Maria and her partner started having problems. Her partner being her only friend and social contact was not healthy for her, and she was not paying enough attention to that problem.
That’s when her partner accepted a transfer to Ontario through his employment. She decided she did not want to go with him. At the time she was receiving counselling for some mental health issues. She believes that was a factor in her partner’s decision.
“Then suddenly I found myself alone, living off income assistance, receiving the standard $810 for rent and living expenses, plus $54 for two special diets, and $35 for the telephone allowance. That was a big financial drop,” she says.
She ended up moving to Dartmouth North to find an apartment she could afford.
She misses having someone in her live who appreciates her. She had more self esteem when she was in a relationship, and her time alone at home did not feel so isolating.
“Kendall, it it wasn’t for the libraries being a place to go and hangout for free then I would be spending my day to day life stuck in my apartment with no one to talk to, only leaving my apartment to go to a doctor or counselling,” she says.
A full time job is not an option for Maria. “I have lived with learning disabilities and mental health issues my whole life. If I didn’t take medication for bipolar disorder working full-time is something I would consider, but the side effects of the medication make that impossible. Part time work is something I am certainly interested in,” Maria says.
“If the Employment Support and Income Assistance Program in Nova Scotia was not so discouraging toward cohabitation I would like to get back into dating and no longer be single. Altogether I would like to make a circle of friends and social contacts in my community right here in Halifax,” she says
“My other dream is to someday make a trip home to the Yukon to visit my family. I have not seen them in years. Of course being on assistance you cannot afford such a trip, she says.
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.
Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!