featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: You should not have to rely on charity just to buy some cleaning supplies

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Regardless of our financial situation, and how big or small of a place we live in, keeping out apartments clean and our carpeted floors vacuumed is a big part of living a healthy life.  

Having a clean place for when your friends come and visit you is essential. Actually, keeping your place clean is just as essential as eating healthy and staying fit to the best of your ability.

Did you readers of the Nova Scotia Advocate know that the Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) program does not provide an allowance for things like cleaning products, brooms, mops, dust pans, vacuums cleaners, and soaps and detergents for your apartment?

The answer is no! Community Services provides no allowance for these types of product.

Keep in mind how little support people on income assistance receive. As I talked about in past stories, the total for a single person with disabilities is $810, being $535 for shelter and $275 for personal allowance.

Paying for cleaning supplies takes a big chunk out of your overall money to live on when you are on income assistance, and it has to come out of your food budget, which is next to nothing to begin with.

Brooms cost between $5.99 at the cheapest and up to $12.99 or more. Mops start at roughly $10 and up. Dish pans are $4.99 and up. Soaps and detergents starts at roughly $3.99 and up, depending on the brand name of what you buy. The cost of soaps like Mr. Clean and Pine-Sol are examples of brands.

And all the above prices are before taxes.

None of this type of stuff is cheap and out of reach when you only receive $810 a month max (plus, if you are lucky enough to be approved, a little extra for special needs).

Say if you need a new vacuum cleaner for vacuuming your carpet for example and you are on income assistance?”

I personally know somebody on income assistance who is at present worried about how how he is going to be able to afford a new vacuum cleaner after the one he had for the longest time recently stopped working.

Community Services does not cover the cost of vacuum cleaners for their clients. When you shop around for a new vacuum you will find that vacuums start at $69.99 and up before tax. They can be priced up to $200 for good quality vacuums. This is not affordable for income assistance recipients.

I know several income assistance recipients who tried to get an allowance from their caseworkers for cleaning supplies and they got denied. The caseworker say “These items are not covered through Income assistance”

When these income assistance recipients asked their caseworkers “what are we supposed to do to get cleaning  products to clean our apartments, the caseworkers responded by raising their voices and saying to them “I do not know what to tell you.”  

One of these people got told by his caseworker to get himself affiliated with a church  and let the church cover the cost of his cleaning products he needs.

“Yeah right,” this client says! This person feels that the Employment Support and Income Assistance system is encouraging him to take unfair advantage of church people when the system should be giving him enough money in his monthly allowance entitlement to cover all his needs.

I agree. Community Services not providing enough to afford cleaning products does not make sense. After all, they want their clients to be independent, and keeping your apartment clean is part that.

It’s just one more problem on top of many others. Over the past couple of years of writing about the community of people living in poverty, I have talked about:

  • not being able to afford to eat healthy,
  • people losing allowances for special needs such as special diets and telephones
  • the difficulty of being able to afford personal hygiene products,
  • Not being able to afford the expensive registration fees for places like gyms and fitness centres,
  • People dipping into their $275 personal allowance to top rent when rent is above the allotted $535 for shelter allowance,
  • Women who are income assistance recipients not being able to afford tampons

Well, just imagine if people on income assistance were already getting $2500 a month, like I wrote in this story: Raise the income assistance rates for the sake of our dignity.

There are so many problems that getting such an amount per month would solve. This problem I am talking about in this story would be one of many problems solved.

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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