KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Recently I was chatting away with a woman, about things like being on income assistance, the summer ending, and getting through the summer months when you live in poverty.
She told me that for the past few years of living on income assistance she always spent Labour Day thinking back to when life was once better for her. She also told me that her Labour Day holiday and all other holidays are spent pretty much alone in her apartment, enjoying her own company to the best of her ability and feeling isolated as a result.
As you will find, this Labour Day things are different for her.
When life was better for her, she tells me, she had a good size community of friends and her family. But everything went downhill when she got sick, having to quit working, and got into a car accident on top of it all.
When she went on income assistance her past friendships ended, because the people who she used to be friends with are strong believers in the welfare stigma. Her former friends told her right to her face things like “You are about to turn stupid and you are never going to make anything out of your life. While the rest of us are engaging in relationships and planning to have kids, this is never going t o happen to you.”
She found those comments made right to her face insulting and discriminating toward her.
She gets the standard $810 for shelter and personal allowance, $81 for special diet. She was getting $150 until over a year ago when it got reduced to $81. Also she gets $35 for a telephone allowance. That makes $926 altogether.
Her rent is $650 and the $35 goes directly on her phone so that leaves her $241 for paying the power bill, which fluctuates between $40 to $60 every two months, plus for personal hygiene products, and groceries. She does use the food bank and sometimes will go to the soup kitchens. However, she does not like going to the soup kitchens.
But things are looking up.
She just received a settlement she was awarded from her car accident, enough so that as of September she will no longer be needing income assistance for the longest time. It will be enough to pay rent and live for the next several years of her life.
The other good news is that this fall she is going to take classes at a Community College.
After being sick the past few years, her doctor recently gave her the OK to try to go back to work. This is why she wants to to go to community college, so she can move into a new line of employment.
She is celebrating, because not only this puts her in a better financial situation but going to community college is going to be her way of escaping social isolation as well.
One she is done studying, she will qualify to be a medical secretary and she knows she will have no problem getting a job in her field.