KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The day to day life of many people living in poverty often includes feelings of frustration, loneliness, isolation, stress, anxiety and depression. Storms and hurricanes tend to make things worse.
This weekend of hurricane Dorian I have been in touch with a lot of people living in poverty.
During storms the social isolation they experience in their day to day lives gets even worse, they say.
I hear some were upset that the evacuation centres were not located within walking distance from where we people who live in poverty live. However, they may not have understood that these evacuation centres were only intended for people who live right on the coast who were asked to evacuate their homes.
Because Metro Transit suspended bus service, and because we cannot afford taxis it was hard to get to a friend’s or family member’s place.
Community Services does not allow us any extra allowance for storm preparation supplies and emergency kit. Such an allowance is not even available as a special need, we are told by our caseworkers.
Their were rumours going around in the community that on Sunday there were going to be comfort centres set up. However, actual locations of these comfort centres were not well advertised.
How can we eat during a power outage when our stoves are not working due to power outage and the soup kitchens and drop-ins will not be open during the storm, they ask.
Anyway, these are the kind of things that inspired me to do this story.
On Saturday morning and on the Friday before the storm I had a sit down with several income assistance recipients who were hoping that they would wake up on Saturday only to find out the weather was wrong about the forecast. On Friday I sat down with William, who I talked about in this story here: The double stigma of poverty and mental health. He told me he spent all week worrying about the storm.
“Kendall, what I am concerned about is every time there is a bad storm happening mental health services offers nothing I can go to keep myself out of social isolation,” he says. “On a day like this my anxiety goes up, and my only option is going to the QE2 emergency.”
Just to let the readers know, I did check in with William just now, and found out some good news. His sister, who lives in Truro ended up driving to Halifax late Friday to pick him and brought him down to her place for that weekend of the storm. She returned him to his apartment in Halifax early Monday morning.
I also had a sit down with Jenny and her friends. I have written about them in these stories here: Shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, A helping hand, community lifts young woman out of poverty, and Home for Christmas.
Jenny told me that when she heard about the storm she felt really bad that this was a weekend that she would not spend with her three friends who are on income assistance. She put together packages for her friends with candles, flashlight, batteries, and other items.
Jennie’s friends were also worried how they were going to get through the weekend dealing with the storm.
Many others experienced loneliness and social isolation during this storm.
On Saturday morning, before the storm hit, I sat down with a few other income assistance recipients, who asked not to be identified. They outright told me that during a storm their anxiety and depression levels go way up during a bad storm.
They told me it gets worse when Metro Transit cancels bus service. They do not have friends with vehicles, and with soup kitchens not being open they have nowhere to go. They were telling me that “we sometimes wonder how we make it through a storm without killing ourselves. We do not have the same resources as financially better off people. We believe the city and the province need to be more considerate of those living in poverty when it comes to setting up places like evacuation and comfort centres,” they said.
Let’s hope the city and the province do better the next storm, that is one thing we all agreed on!
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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