Though I'm reluctant to "air my dirty laundry in public," to quote my grandmother, I do so in hopes it may help in some way to ameliorate others' circumstances. The facts are brief and similar across the board. Much of my backstory is in the documentary My Week on Welfare by Jackie Torrens and Jessica Brown of Peep Media. I have a solid educational background, a good work ethic and awards and certificates "to the wazoo." (I've been assured by a clerical friend that "wazoo" is an acceptable theological term.)
I have received income assistance since an accident almost a decade ago, but volunteer as my recalcitrant body allows. The much-touted "transformation" of the Employment Support and Income Assistance program has had little practical impact, in my experience. There are many among the "working poor" and even the middle class in need of housing due to rising rents and falling affordable housing stock. Managing daily necessities—like medications and food—can be challenging. However, I am grateful for what I do have: My niche of service, my friends and opportunities to sample the cultural riches of our society.
In my public advocacy efforts, such as
addresses given at screenings of My Week On Welfare, I've mentioned how life's unexpected circumstances can be difficult to manage at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. Now, it looks as if I will have to leave my home of 12-and-a-half years next spring. An investment company bought my small seven-floor building, and I simply cannot manage the increased expense. The premises are being renovated. I have been informed utilities will be excluded from my rent in May 2020. (This is considered a rental increase—Nova Scotia Power told me to expect $215 a month—and I understand the rent itself will increase in 2021 to roughly $1,100.) I am allowed $535 by Nova
Scotia's department of community services for shelter, and must dip into my $275 personal allowance—meant to cover groceries and general expenses—for the remainder. Average rents in HRM exceed the entirety of my income assistance allowance.
I cannot board or room with anyone as my shelter allowance would be reduced to $223. Funds would be insufficient to shoulder my share of the load. There is no flexibility in my budget for such things. I have applied for subsidies from the province, and housing too, with no return. Every so often I take stock of what will fit into my kit bag. Someone has offered to look after mom's ashes if need be. I've exercised prudence, working away at the problem for some time. In summation, I don't have many options—and as mentioned before, I am not the only one. At this point, I know but three things: I cannot afford to stay. I cannot afford to go. And God has promised never to abandon one.