KJIPUKTUK – (Halifax) – You readers of the Nova Scotia Advocate may remember this story Lives on welfare – hopes and dreams, one of several stories I wrote about Darlene and Daryl, two friends who try to make ends meet while living on social assistance.
As part of what I had mentioned in this story here, they are talking about moving in together. Well guess what? – Them moving in together is happening in August! Also in that same conversation we had earlier this month, Darlene also brought some other news to my attention.
Daryl and Darlene started discussing in September that they have developed such a great friendship, and Daryl for the past number of years has been wanting to get out of his current address in Dartmouth North. However with rents being expensive in other parts of the city, like more than $750 just for a bachelor apartment, and starting at $900 for a one bedroom, they knew back in September that becoming roommates was not going to happen overnight and they needed to come up with a plan as to how they are going to do this.
They had both been supportive all along of each other with knowing each other’s situation of being on income assistance and knowing each other’s mental health issues as well.
You could say that Daryl’s experience during COVID-19 added fuel to the fire of having to move out of his current place. He said that during self isolation his neighbors, who cannot afford a phone because Community Services does not approve them for the special needs telephone allowance, kept coming to his door harassing him to let them use his phone. This is one example out of many he experienced while living in that building that he wants to put behind him.
So in October 2019 Darlene made contact with a church pastor she knew who just started preaching in Halifax. She met with him and talked with him about her and Daryl’s situation. This pastor then hooked her up with a contact he knew, who was able to help Daryl and Darlene out.
Turns out one of these contacts owns his own real estate company and he made an offer to her saying: “We have someone retiring at the end of August and then I am going to need a new office manager. I will between now and next August train you myself for what you need to know for your employment related duties.”
Darlene jumped on this idea and said “sure I am interested”
During COVID-19 he continued to train her online when they could not meet in person and that kept her busy while self isolating. Now that restrictions are being lifted, that makes them more confident about their upcoming move.
They also found a new place. At their new 3-bedroom house they are about to move into they will be each pay $500 for rent plus extra for power and phone.
However, another side to this story is the question what will happen to Daryl’s income assistance cheque as a result of them moving in together?
Just to be clear, they are only moving in together as roommates. If they were a couple then they would be affected by section 6.1.8 of the employment support and income assistance policy manual. This section talks about cohabitation, and Darryl would receive less money.
The other contact that the church pastor hooked them up with is a lawyer who accompanied them to meetings at DCS where Daryl and Darlene talked to caseworkers about the upcoming changes in their situation.
Daryl was told that after they move in together he can continue to receive his standard for people with disabilities of $850 a month as long as each year at his annual review he shows up with a written statement saying: “Darlene and I are not boyfriend/girlfriend. We are living together as roommates for financial reasons only.”
They were told by the caseworker that if they do start a romantic relationship while they are living together then they will have to report that as an immediate change in their circumstance.
To end this story, I will say that despite whatever happens through Community Services, they are looking forward to living together. That Darlene will be leaving the house to go to work everyday Monday to Friday while they are together will help because Daryl will have space to do what he wants during the daytime. Daryl eventually wants to find a job of his own.
So things are looking up for them.
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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