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Kendall Worth: Why many income assistance recipients in Halifax want to forget their rural past

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Running into people from your past can happen to all of us, doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor.

However, running into someone here in the city who recognizes you from earlier times in rural Nova Scotia is not always a joyful occasion for people on income assistance!

I personally know lots of income assistance recipients in my community who try hard to put those days of living in rural Nova Scotia behind them.

One of them recently ran into someone from his rural past. This person invited the recipient to a reunion taking place back where he grew up in rural Nova Scotia this summer.

The income assistance recipient will not be attending and close to the end of this story I will explain why.

Generally it is all about the stigma that is out there about people who are on welfare. I talked about the strong sigma that people believe in two stories I wrote for the Nova Scotia Advocate.

See: Ignorant ideas about welfare I hear a lot, and, More ignorant ideas about welfare that people actually believe.

The people I know have had incidents where they were stigmatized by people who knew them from rural Nova Scotia where they grew up. The only reason for this treatment is because they are receiving an income assistance check from Community Services.

Many of my friends have invisible disabilities but those who know them from growing up together somewhere in rural Nova Scotia do not always understand their disabilities.

These people also often do not understand that my friends need to live in the city because that’s where there are resources to help them deal with and manage their invisible disabilities.

Many income assistance recipients live with mental health issues or even mental illness. People in rural Nova Scotia tends to label this group of income assistance recipients as according to them “people who just do not want to work”. People from rural Nova Scotia do not care that these members of my community are getting treatment for their mental health issues.

I myself am also very familiar with incidents where people on income assistance with a rural past get stigmatized right into their faces for being on income assistance by people who know them from where in rural Nova Scotia they grew up.

This welfare recipient I know quite well was out in public here in Halifax and crossed paths with someone who recognized from him from growing up in a place located in rural Nova Scotia.  

My friend remained calm, cool and collected as they were talking and successfully managed to keep the conversation short.  

However, the encounter was very unpleasant for him.

The welfare recipient got asked by this person who he had not seen in years  if he has care staff coming into his place looking after him and support him.

By the way you readers may remember this article that was once posted in the advocate: Letter from Kendall Worth – Mind your own business!

Part of what this story talked about was “I also know of another income assistance recipient who had also been in the news. One close family member got phone calls from people has not seen or talked to in at least 10 to 20 years of his life. These people called because they were pissed off to find out to find out that this person is on social assistance. They should mind their own business!”

As I mentioned earlier, my friend got invited to this reunion, but he will not go.

Even though the people who he will be seeing there are people he has not talked in years, he gets advised by his close family members that these people have never changed their attitude on what according to them welfare recipients are.

People should be able to attend reunions without worrying. Let’s all end the stigma!    

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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