KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This summer is going to be different, no matter whether you are rich or poor!
Every past summer as long back as I can remember we never had COVID-19 or anything like that to deal with. However, this summer we are not going to be seeing things like large crowds on the Halifax waterfront. Festivals, reunions, you name it, they have been cancelled.
In recent conversations with welfare recipients, they were telling me that even though they never really attend these summertime fun activities anyway, things are going to be different for them as well. This is because they are recovering from the overwhelming depression and anxiety that two and a half months of self isolation has caused them.
Not being able to see their social contacts who they normally see at the drop-ins and soup kitchens has taken a toll on their mental health. Also for a few welfare recipients, not being able to go to part time jobs due to being laid off because of COVID-19, these past few months were lonely for them as well.
Being alone in their apartments and not having any family or friends checking in on them added fuel to the fire of the extra depression and anxiety self isolation has caused them.
They say to me: “Kendall, even though soup kitchens have not yet re-opened for dine-in yet, we are happy to be able to start going out for walks again.”
Here is something else which comes into play. Some welfare recipients, including myself, who have friends who live away and who under normal circumstances make a summer trip to Halifax for visiting have decided they are not going to be making their annual summer trip to Halifax this year.
Of course their reasons for not coming to Halifax this year is totally understandable. At the same time, something like this also adds fuel to the fire of the lonesome feeling for this summer.
However, I want to clear on the fact that this story is not only about myself.
Over the past several days I have been talking with a mixture of people, including income assistance recipients and other community members who have given me input on this story.
We all agreed that if the program I talked about in this article here, On friendship, poverty, and feeling discouraged, already existed it would help. After all, it would give people an opportunity to make a friend to talk with about their feelings and getting out of depression.
Unfortunately we do not have this program in Nova Scotia. I know one welfare recipient who tells me that he likes to go swimming in the summertime and wishes he could make a friend to go swimming with. Attending summertime fun activities by yourself is no fun.
Welfare recipients also tell me that they feel that recovering from this is going to be more difficult because they do not have friends to talk with about what they went through. They said, “Kendall, our experiences of being depressed during COVID-19 reminded us of the importances of having friendships with people who understand our situations.”
This reminds me of the story I did with Alex Stratford of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers.
Unfortunately, what can be done about all these problems remains a mystery. I expressed to Alex the importance forf welfare recipients to be able to have friends to talk with about what they are feeling. Alex agreed, but the problem is, where do we find a professional who is willing to volunteer to get this program going in Nova Scotia, the same as the doctor in Ontario did?
Let’s hope we someday find a solution!
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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