KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Within these past couple of weeks I got to have a sit-down with a guy we will name Josh (not his real name). Josh receives income assistance.
We talked about a story I wrote about income assistance recipients getting spoken to by police and security guards for so-called inappropriate body language.
Like in the story, there have been times when Josh too was approached by police and private security guards. He tells me that the reason for him getting approached is them getting complaints that he has been inappropriately fidgeting and staring at people.
Those people in the general public who are reporting me to police and security for making them feel uncomfortable because of my actions, those are people I suspect who do not know my situation of being on income assistance or my disabilities I live with, and that is hurtful to me,” Josh says.
He has even been accused of being intoxicated, even though he was not drinking alcohol at the time they got those specific complaints.
Josh told me that there have been times when police and security even made him show ID. He also told me that police used the Breathalyzer on him and in his view that was only a waste of time for the police in his case because they used it on him only to find out he was not drinking.
“Those people in the general public who are reporting me to police and security for making them feel uncomfortable because of my actions, those are people I suspect who do not know my situation of being on income assistance or my disabilities I live with, and that is hurtful to me,” Josh says.
Josh thinks that financially better off people such as police and private security guards do not always understand what the life of someone who receives income assistance is like.
“Kendall, they do not get that we only have the amount of $810 a month ($535 for shelter allowance and $275 for personal allowance). Of course you are going to live your day to day life being frustrated.”
This story here, In Halifax police and security guards are harassing poor people with mental health issues, mentions three other incidents involving three other income assistance recipients.
In Josh’s case it always happens to him on income assistance check day, while he is doing his shopping and errands.
“Kendall, I sometimes wonder if the reason why this does not happen to me on other days of the month is because on those days I leave my apartment only to go directly to the soup kitchens, the drop-ins and my foodbank on my scheduled foodbank days,” he says.
Josh also tells me he often feels lonely and isolated when he is not at the soup kitchens or drop-ins, when they are closed at times like weekends and some holidays.
Josh tells me that he has family about an hour away from Halifax who will invite him out to their place, but only to two or three times per year, like for Christmas.
Josh dreams of someday having a better life.
Out of his income assistance allowance he pays $650 a month for rent (with heat and hot water included), $50 a month for power, and the remaining $110 a month for groceries, laundry soap, dish detergent, and personal hygiene. He gets the $35 a month for his telephone allowance.
Josh tells me that he would like to see the day come that he is off the system. He graduated from grade 12 with and academic high school diploma, and he even attended university during his first year following high school. Then he got sick and had to leave a summer job early because of his mental health issues.
He told me that he got referred to a specialist by his doctor for an assessment. Through that assessment, it was found that he has learning disabilities and a mild case of autism, which were never detected when he was a kid.
One worry of Josh is that if he ever gains employment he must interact with coworkers who may have issues with his body language.
“Kendall, if complete strangers who otherwise do not even know who I am from Adam, are going to complain to police and security that my body language is making them feel uncomfortable, then coworkers could feel the same way.”
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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