KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I want to explain why 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 well over 80 percent of them 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.
Only receiving 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.
Anyway, as I am sure you readers are all aware, the province recently announced a second lockdown, but this time only for HRM, and with fewer restrictions.
Still, in this current lockdown, libraries are closed, which makes access to the Internet very difficult. Places like MacDonald and Tim Hortons are once again back to only doing takeout. Places like Souls Harbour and other soup kitchens continue with take out only.
People on income assistance tell me how life was just like a living hell for them during the first lockdown, and fuel to the fire of social isolation they experience already. Quite a few of them need to be extra careful because of health problems. For some more then others, mental health supports were not available to them during the lockdown either.
To be more clear, William, who I talked about in this article here, Being poor and stressed during the coronavirus, mentioned how their personal connections were limited to their family doctor, counselors, and other medical specialists.
At least, in William’s case he had his sister checking on him as well as the mental health social worker who called once in a while to see if he was ok. Many other income assistance recipients do not have close family members or friends checking in on them during lock down.
Anyway, income assistance recipients are worried about what is going to happen two weeks down the road. Right now some income assistance have told me their doctors appointments for example are back to telephone, and that was uncomfortable during the first wave.
Some of the 20 percent of the lucky ones have told me that even before the second lock down began they are not going to visit their families home to see family this Christmas. I myself for the first time will not be going 40 minutes outside of Antigonish this year for Christmas.
One problem that is holding us back is not knowing whether or not our families have plans to be following public health protocols while in rural Nova Scotia. Also, if another lockdown happens while visiting family, we may not be close enough to our apartments to return home immediately. All these things are making us nervous about the thought of visiting family when they live in rural Nova Scotia.
These same income assistance recipients are now going to have to worry about once again feeling more socially isolated, just like back in the spring, due to current restrictions. This year they will hardly be leaving their apartments because of more than normal anxiety they will be experiencing.
Let’s hope for the best and that the new lockdown only lasts two weeks.
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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