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Kendall Worth: Huge rent increases leave three tenants scrambling for shelter

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I have written quite a bit about a person we will call Jennie and her three friends, who are on income assistance. Now the three friends, who live in different apartments, are all three faced with a sudden huge rent increase, and they don’t know what to do.

I have told you how Jennie escaped from a life on welfare, how she met her three friends, how they celebrated Thanksgiving together, and how much their friendship means to them.

Things were also getting a bit better for the three friends. They have part-time jobs now, and are allowed to keep the first $350.

But as of March 1st, 2020 they are at risk of becoming homeless due to their rent increasing. 

One of the friends is currently paying $650, another is paying $725, and the third is paying $750. Starting March 1st, rent for all three of them is going to be $950 a month. They live in different buildings.

Note that they pay another $60 on budget billing for power.

So when you think about this whole thing, the total income assistance allowance is $810. Add the $350 they are allowed to keep in earnings from their part-time employment, and their take home income is $1160.

Now subtract the $950 for rent, starting in March, then subtract another  $60 for their power bill, and that only leaves them roughly $160 a month for food and incidentals. 

They do get the special needs allowance for a telephone from Community Services, but that is only $35 more a month and that has to go directly on this phone bill. So that is a little or no help.

This story once again shows the need for rent control, like many of my stories have been doing lately. 

See also: Kendall Worth: The need for rent control

However, this is also a story that illustrates how the life of an income assistance recipient can at any time take a turn for the worse, after they feel that things are finally starting to get a bit better in their lives.

Over the past few months of being allowed to keep more of their earnings, Jennie’s friends have been able to access a membership for a local indoor swimming pool and fitness facility. 

They loved this, because not only was it good for their health, but it provided them with another healthy activity they could all do together as friends. Going to the fitness centre at least 3 to 4 times a week gave them yet another activity that kept them out of social isolation.

Now Jenny’s friends are worried they are going to have to give this up in order to pay for what their new rent is going to cost them starting March 1st.

Jenny said to me, “Kendall, these young women have become like sisters to me and I am going to do everything I can to advocate  to try and make sure that they do not become homeless as of March.”

Jenny has decided she is not going to fall behind in her school work, but did ask her employer for a leave of absence from her job. After her employer heard her reason for asking, he granted her leave request. She plans to invest her time off to do what she can to help her friends!

Stay tuned for an update on this story.     

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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