KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Since COVID-19 began I have done a few follow-ups about people I wrote about in the past, because I was concerned about how they were handling the pandemic. Then, always with their permission, I published updates about their experiences in the Nova Scotia Advocate.
I feel it is important to keep my readers updated on how people on income assistance are doing during COVID-19.
In general, the people I advocate for live a life of poverty, loneliness, and social isolation, for reasons that are not their fault.
It’s safe to say that some 80%/ or even 90% of those I advocate for do not have good relationships with friends and family, or don’t have any.
Many do not even have social contacts in the community to talk to except the people at the soup kitchens and various drop-ins that people living in poverty attend.
Things like only having a standard household rate of as little as $508 per month to $850 for people who live with disabilities, plus, if you are lucky, a bit extra for special needs, and facing the welfare stigma add fuel to the fire of the general feelings of misery I am describing here.
Now, with the province lifting restrictions, they are getting excited about once again getting out in the community for walks and experiencing life, while adjusting to the new normal. Of course social distancing is nothing new to safe to say 80% of income assistance recipients because in normal times they are social distancing anyway.
First, I want to recap this story, Abnormal days, where I talked about Maria. Maria by the way has reasons of her own to celebrate the restrictions getting lifted. Before COVID-19 hit, she was in the works of starting a new job. However COVID-19 put her starting date on hold. Now she is finally starting that new job next week and she is looking forward to this. This job is also going to help her live a less socially isolated life; as well as improve her situation financially.
Also during COVID-19, as you readers may remember, I wrote about two other people, Depressing times! How some people on social assistance are living through COVID-19, and I checked in with them recently as well.
You may remember the stories I did about her, about the challenges to poor people when recovering from day surgery and another one where she was stigmatized for being poor while on the bus.
She told me she handled the days of self isolation a lot better than she thought she would. She had people from her church checking in on her at least every second day. Also, to her surprise, two family members who live in New Brunswick actually got in touch with her by phone to check in on her.
And good news – the conversations with them included no stigma and they just wanted to know how she was making out, that was all. She was surprised to hear from them because they would not even call her back to see how she was doing in her days of recovering from surgery. This time, the conversations lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, it felt like. Before, if they were to call, she told me, the calls would be 10 minutes or less, and they would only call if they wanted something.
Dorothy, who I also talked about in the above story, says she is happy to once again be able to get out for walks and fresh air. When the family bubble got introduced, her ex boyfriend and his new girlfriend invited her to bubble with them. So they made a date to do that once a week until further restrictions are lifted.
Let’s hope COVID-19 goes away and stays away forever!
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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