KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Well, here we are into the month of December 2019. I recently had the opportunity to have a sit down with a young woman who is an income assistance recipient.
We’ll call her Lee, but that’s not her real name.
When I walked into her apartment, the first thing she did was get a box of taco shells out of her cupboard. She told me she got them from her food bank about a month ago. Eating those tacos sitting at home alone by yourself is no fun, she said.
“Kendall,” she said, “growing up as a kid, every time my parents made tacos for supper, and also when they made pizza, we were always allowed to invite a couple of our friends over. Today, being an income assistance, I do not have any friends to invite.”
“Kendall, as a way to thank you for taking my story for the Nova Scotia Advocate, I would now love to make these and share them with you.”
I said, “Lee, as much I would like to say yes to take you up on this offer, don’t you think you might be better off using the taco shells and the other ingredients for making tacos for a time when you need a meal, like on a day that soup kitchens are closed and you cannot access your food bank?”
She said,”“You know how long it has been since I had company over to my apartment? Somewhere within the range of 3 to 5 years,” she said. “Not getting invites to go anywhere for Christmas, and not having friends who I can invite over to my place for Christmas makes Christmas no fun for me.”
Lee, who is 35 years old, is lonely and socially isolated, like 80% of income assistance recipients. She also lives with depression and anxiety, and she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s.
She tells me that during the month of December she hardly leaves her apartment for any reason.
Her family disowned her after she went on income assistance. Friendships ended.
She told me she read How income assistance recipients stumble through the month of December, a story I wrote just before Christmas in 2018, and she said she can relate to that story very much. That story talks about in general how Income Assistance recipients feel socially out of place when they go to things like Christmas parties, etc.
Lee told me that there have been times throughout these five years or so she had turned down invites to Christmas parties for reasons this story talks about.
She would feel like she is the only welfare recipient attending. No fun going to things like this without a date and when you live in poverty. Turning down invitations is all about looking out for my comfort zone, she says.
She told me that her Christmas wish is to live a better life, make new friends and, as all welfare recipients want, more money to live 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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