KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This is a story about a woman in her late twenties who was on income assistance at one time, but no more. We’ll call her Rachel (not her real name).
It took her juggling three jobs in order to get off the system and to live a better life in general, and get her student loan paid off. She felt that working three jobs was a break from dealing with the stigma of being on social assistance.
This all happened 10 years ago or so. She now lives in a real nice apartment on the Bedford Highway.
As we all know, the Employment Support and Income Assistance system was worse then, and is not much better at present. She told me that she ended up income assistance after completing a two year course in nutrition at a local private college.
She decided to get off social assistance, to pay off her student loan, and leave where she lived at the time. She made those decisions knowing that it was going to take hard work and commitment.
One piece of good news she celebrated last month is that she got her student loan paid off in full after the past couple of years of paying it off. Now that her student loan is paid off, she plans to quit the job that has her working weekends and holidays. This coming December will be the first time in three years that she can spend Christmas with her family. Then she will have a bit more time to herself to have a bit of a life.
Anyway, her living expenses are $1000 a month for her one bedroom apartment;
$125 a month for her power bill on budget billing and her power bill includes electric heat; $64 a month for phone. Until last month, she was paying $200 a month for her student loan, plus her past two income tax refunds went right into paying off her student loan. So her living expenses with student loan payments included add up to $1389 a month.
In addition to all the above, she also had a credit card which she had recently successfully paid off as well.
Then she is planning by summer 2020 to only have one job.
At her regular daytime job, she recently got promoted to manager with a nice raise. She is looking to living life feeling normal and having the freedom to do social activities and spending more time with family.
Rachel is looking forward to working only during during the daytime without going to another job in the evening during the week.
So I guess you could say that sometimes it takes a lot of commitment to work toward a better life.
However, we have to remember that many people who are on Income assistance cannot take on commitments like these, because they have disabilities and mental health issues.
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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