KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Last week the lack of concern over the issues of homeless and poverty by our federal, provincial and municipal governments resulted in the tragic and needless death of a young woman in the Annapolis Valley.
A young woman quietly died of carbon monoxide poisoning while her boyfriend has suffered permanent brain damage. Homeless in January, they decided to sleep in their car with their dog. They turned the car on to keep warm in the frigid January temperatures. They did not know there was a leak in the exhaust which resulted in the woman and the dog dying of carbon monoxide poisoning while the man reportedly suffered brain damage.
Why did this happen? Who allowed this to happen? the two must have gone looking for help. Why were they not helped? If they were on social assistance, it is common knowledge the Income Assistance program does not now, nor have they ever paid the market rates for housing for their clients. If Nancy and Travis were working for a minimum wage of $12.55 an hour it is also well known that minimum wage jobs are generally unstable and a worker rarely gets 40 hours a week.
In rural Nova Scotia where transportation is almost non existent, a worker needs a car to get to work. A minimum wage worker cannot afford both a car and an apartment where the average monthly wage is $1684. This same website tells us that the average price of a one bedroom apartment is $742 a month. Yeah? Good luck finding it! And even if you do, that is nearly 50% of the monthly income.
There is a dire shortage of affordable rental units in the Annapolis Valley right now. Landlords have been directed not to discriminate against potential tenants who have children but they do. And the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission allows it. Landlords are not permitted to discriminate against someones’ source of income such as social assistance. Yet they still do it. And they get away with it because our well paid government employees, both those who are supposed to enforce regulations and those who are regulating the poor, are all not doing their jobs. And the death of the woman and the injuries of the man will end up costing the taxpayers of Nova Scotia a lot more than if we had simply helped them with housing and basic needs. The man may need care and housing for the rest of his life. The family of the woman is now traumatized and will need help.
Ironically while the two were doing their best to deal with their homelessness, the County Council in Annapolis has been debating how to bring in the elite school of Gordonstoun. Yes, they want a school in Annapolis County that will educate the elite children of millionaires and billionaires while their own citizens are dying in their cars. All levels of government need to get their priorities straight.
Condolences to the families. May this never happen again. But I’m not holding my breath.
Brenda Thompson is an activist and author who lives in the Annapolis Valley.
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