KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Meet Marie and Alice. Those are not their real names, as they do not want to be identified because they are recipients of income assistance.
Marie and Alice both have part time jobs, and that’s how they know one another, but they’re not really friends outside of work, they say. They’re laid off from their job during this summer.
Marie and Alice have thought about becoming roommates, but then they thought about how if they were to do this they would drive each other crazy after seeing each other at work all day.
They had read my story Why people living in poverty miss out on summer time fun and relaxation, and a wonderful idea, and they also find that they feel a bit socially isolated during the summer. That’s what they wanted to talk about with me.
They dream about the day when they can afford to live somewhere where during the summer months they can have a BBQ out on their back decks or on their balconies. “Summertime is the most socially isolated time of year for the both of us, because of lack of funds to do things and the extra time spent by our lonesome,” they tell me.
“So, Marie and Alice, tell me, how would you describe how being on welfare treats you both financially and mentally,” I asked.
“Well Kendall, we both get what is now the standard household rate. Even though the $100 increase happened in May, that increase was only a drop in the bucket. We feel that for our story it is not important to disclose what we pay for rent, but we will say what we pay for rent cuts pretty close to the $950 we receive on a welfare check,” they replied.
What they really wanted to talk about was social isolation and stigma that come with being on social assistance.
“Why should summer not be a time when we can take care of our mental health,” they asked.
They told me about how during the school year when they are at work, (meaning the part-time jobs they have supplementing their incomes), they hear about how some of their better off co-workers have plans to do things over the summer months, like going away to summer cottages they own, having friends over for BBQs, attending family reunions, and engaging in other things that financially better off people get to enjoy in life.
“We continue to have people in our lives who believe in the stigma about us. If we go to the free summer events we run the risk of running into those people who are believers in that stigma. Of course in 2021 many free events are cancelled because of COVID,” they said.
Let’s hope things work out for Marie and Alice!
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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