A CALL TO ARMS – Raising the rental allotment for all on Income Assistance

I’ve had enough.

I am on permanent disability. As with the other 2 types of income assistance (welfare and short-term disability), my rental portion of my cheque is $375 per month. If our rent is less, we get that amount cut to what the rent is. If the rent is more, we’re SOL and have to just pay it anyway.

As an example – I was renting a place for $650 a month. My cell phone bill that I was stuck on because I got locked into a contract was about $90 a month. My internet and land line so I can keep in touch with my family were about $90 a month as well. My monthly cheque is $886.42 a month. Let’s do the math:

  • 650 + 90 + 90 = 830
  • 886.42 – 830.00 = 56.42

That’s right. I had only $56.42 to cover all my other bills for a whole month, including food. The food banks only give enough food for a person with a low metabolism to eat for a week, and that’s available only once a month. I suffer from an overactive metabolism and require almost twice the average intake of food. And guess what – the amount I would need for food just happened to be the amount of my comforts cheque that was eaten up by my rent each month. I tried bringing in a room mate, but it was a tiny 1 bedroom, so I spent the last 3 months trying to find a new place to live; the last month of that was spent homeless and couch surfing, because there is literally nothing available for less than $500.

My mother is in the Southern Interior of BC and is also on permanent disability (severe case of Rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and now osteoporosis). She is looking for a place to live by herself with 1 indoor cat. She cannot find anything for less than $750.

My brother (Also PWD for the same reasons I am) and his girlfriend are now looking for a place for themselves and their new baby. They can’t find anything for less than $750.

One of my best friends is on short-term disability (BPD, Compassion fatigue, debilitating migraines) with her 2 cats (therapy animals, so no, can’t just get rid of them), and is currently couch surfing. She can’t find anything less than $550.

Finding room mates is not really an option. Finding a landlord willing to rent to a few people that are all on assistance is even less an option. Just getting a job in the current economy and without college education is not an option, either. Living alone is not feasible merely because there are no places for rent for only $375 a month. Even in the small outlying towns, rent prices have skyrocketed to insane levels. Right now, in Vancouver, it’s more cost effective to be homeless; they lose their rental portion, but the comforts portion doesn’t become wasted on overpriced rent. People in prison are better off than people even on disability, let alone regular welfare. Did you know that employers won’t hire you unless you have a mailing address? For most jobs, they actually can’t hire you unless you have a permanent address; if you just give them a friends address and they find out, they can terminate you for falsifying your application. People have been fighting to get income assistance raised for a while, but honestly, I do understand why the government won’t raise the comforts portions of income assistance cheques. In and of themselves, the comforts portions are enough to survive on, IF that money goes to things like food and transportation and household supplies (toiletpaper, shampoo, the usual.) The problem is, it’s not going to that stuff; it’s going to our RENT!

Want to get more homeless off the street? Want to get people working more, paying taxes more, and not simply leeching off the system? Don’t want to increase the comforts cheques more? I’ve got your solution:

Raise ONLY the rental portion of Income Assistance from $375 for a single to $650 for a single, from $570 for a couple to $775 for a couple, and from $660 for a family to $900 for a family. Only the rental portion. Keep the other rules in place; if the rent is less, the portion is less. The comforts portions of the cheques are, honestly, fine as they are. I’m not trying to push for that to be increased; as much as I want more money, I’m fine having to find a job if I want to do anything better. But the rental portion is another matter entirely; what good is leaving the comforts portion as it is going to do if we can’t afford rent anywhere in the province?

This is a call to arms. I’m sending this message to any who will stand with me in making this change. I’m sick to death of fighting every day just to have a safe roof over my head. Please, join me in making this happen.