LeftRight

Monthly Archives : November 2012

Noel

Uncategorized

Name: Noel Oullette

Occupation: Community Activist

Noёl lives in New Westminster.  He was in a car accident 25 years ago that resulted in a back injury that makes it difficult to work.  He has worked various jobs over the years and held a part-time job last year, but his welfare cheque was reduced dollar for dollar on his earnings.  After rent, he is left with $145 a month for food and bills.  He goes to the food bank and lines up for 2-3 hours a week for food that only lasts about 2-3 days.  He has applied to get on disability, but the process is taking a very long time.

We support raising welfare and disability rates, and making them accessible to those in need. The recent re-introduction of an earnings exemption, which means that people on welfare can keep $200 of what they earn, will make a small difference in allowing people to potentially access $810 per month. However, this amount is still significantly below the poverty line.

“There are no frills on a fixed income, no going to the movies, no spending on anything that isn’t necessary to survive. You have to make every dollar stretch.”

Rick

Uncategorized

Name: Rick Erb

Occupation: Educator/Volunteer

Rick grew up in Richmond, Port Coquitlam, and Agassiz, and currently lives in Burnaby. He had a good life growing up. He became a teacher on call in his 30s in Surrey and Coquitlam. Eventually he got a night school position in Surrey teaching ESL.  He had a stroke in 2005.  After the stroke, his life changed a great deal and he had to stop working.  He finds groceries expensive, but generally can afford food and rent. He continues to volunteer in his community, and is looking for more ways to get back to work.

We support raising welfare and disability rates. At $610 and $906 per month respectively, they are completely inadequate and have been frozen since 2007. The cost of food has increased by almost 25% over the last 10 years, and the average household needs about $1400 per month to meet the cost of basic necessities.

“It makes me ashamed as a Canadian to see that [over 500 thousand people live in poverty in BC]. I expect more out of this country. I expect Canada to be the leading country in the world especially starting with how it treats its own citizens.”

Fraser

Uncategorized

Name: Fraser Stuart

Occupation: Community Activist

Fraser is 60 years old and, after being homeless for a year, he now lives in a Single Room Occupancy hotel in Vancouver’s downtown east side. He has lived and worked in BC for 25 years, and has three children, all PhD candidates studying in Canada. He is unable to work now because of a variety of medical conditions but, despite having forms from a specialist, he still can’t get on disability. He is currently doing his best to get by on welfare alone. After paying rent, he lives on about $175 a month.  

We support raising welfare and disability rates, and making them accessible to those in need. The welfare system in BC is fundamentally broken. Many people are held in the wrong category for years. Those who face barriers to employment must have this status recognized quickly and be re-categorized. Although still inadequate, $906 for a person with a disability would make a difference after struggling on $610.

“If you’re homeless, you line up for an hour for your bed at night.  You line up to take a shower, another hour.  You line up an hour to do your laundry… You’re lined up about 6 hours a day.  That’s besides walking… So, it’s a full time job being homeless.”

Canada

Uncategorized

Name: Canada Drouin

Occupation: Community Volunteer

Canada lived in Montreal with her husband and children but, after a difficult time, she came to BC to start over and now lives in Surrey. She has a business administration degree but was unable to find work. Health issues limit her mobility and her ability to commit to a work week of greater than 30 hours. She now lives on disability alone and, after paying rent and other bills, has only $100 per month for food.  She serves her community by volunteering and sitting on boards.

We support raising disability rates. 60% of those on disability benefits are unable to work so they rely solely on an income of $906 per month ($10,782 annually), which is significantly below the poverty line. As housing costs continue to rise without a corresponding increase in disability benefits, those living on disability are forced to make difficult choices to make ends meet.

“We’ve had three rent increases in 7 years…The last time it went up $30.  And I told the landlady I couldn’t do it anymore.  Because I can barely make it through my cheque now.”

Vera

Uncategorized

Name: Vera Tonte

Occupation: Youth Job Training Participant

Vera was born and raised in Richmond. As a young girl, she became passionate about dancing. She made her way to New York City, performing in the ballet and modern dance scenes. However, the pressure led her to an increased reliance on substance abuse, which eventually brought her back to Vancouver. After couch-surfing for 5 years, she entered a recovery program and now lives in a recovery house. With the help of an advocate, she was recently successful in accessing disability benefits, and is in the process of moving out.

We support raising welfare and disability rates, and making them accessible to those in need. The application system for disability assistance is now so complicated that many people need help from an advocate to successfully navigate the process. However, funding for advocates has been cut.

“I was told right off the bat that it was going to be really difficult to get on to disability.  A lot of the women in the [recovery] house have had to reapply multiple times.”

Diane

Uncategorized

Name: Diane McCluskey

Occupation: Early Childhood Educator

Diane grew up on a small reserve in Klemtu near Bella Bella and now lives in Prince Rupert.  She has a large family, and both of her parents suffered from alcoholism.  She is the mother of three children.  She was inspired by the early childhood educators who took an active role in her children’s lives to become an ECE herself.  Her employment contract ended recently, and she has been on welfare since that time.  She is currently recovering from a health condition that requires her to travel to Vancouver every 3 months for treatment but she receives no additional support.

We support raising welfare rates and indexing them to inflation. Welfare rates are completely inadequate and have not been increased since 2007, while the cost of living has risen substantially in that time. People living in poverty are more likely to have health issues, and the health care costs of poverty are $1.2 billion per year.

“There’s so much more to BC than Vancouver.  Out in the North, there’s so much… People here need something to give them hope. Something to reach for…I don’t understand why we don’t have a poverty reduction plan. I can’t tell you how upsetting that is.”

William

Uncategorized

Name: William Elder

Occupation: Community Activist

William was born and raised in Surrey.  He was recently evicted from an apartment that was plagued by untreated black mold in the bathroom, which resulted in an altercation with the landlord.  He worked in security for over 40 years but he had to leave due to respiratory illness. He is mostly house bound and requires support for home care.  He receives disability benefits of $906 per month, but this is reduced dollar for dollar by the CPP disability he receives at $527.51.  By the time his bills are paid, he is usually left with only $75 to $150 per month for groceries.

We support raising disability rates and providing more protection for renters.  60% of those on disability benefits are unable to work so they rely solely on an income of $906 per month ($10,782 annually), which is significantly below the poverty line.

“I usually get worried, especially when it comes time to pay bills, that I don’t have enough to cover my bills. Then after bills I’m worried about where my next meal is going to come from. After I’ve paid the bills, sometimes I don’t have enough money to go grocery shopping.”

Tom

Uncategorized

Name: Tom Page

Occupation: Community Activist

Tom lives in New Westminster in a studio suite in a building for people over 55. He spent 20 years in Kamloops, and started his own company in the early 1990s. He married, raised a family, and owned a home on a single income.  Later in life, he developed several chronic illnesses.  Working exacerbated his conditions so he ultimately decided to go on disability. After rent and bills, he is left with just under $300 month for food.  He goes to the food bank when his illness allows, but the whole process takes up to 2 or 3 hours.

We support raising disability rates. An income of $906 per month ($10,782 annually) is significantly below the poverty line. As housing costs continue to rise without a corresponding increase in disability benefits, those living on disability are forced to make difficult choices to make ends meet. People on disability have the right to live with dignity, without having to resort to charities.

“The situation is unfair to all British Columbians. The vast majority of British Columbians don’t want to see any poverty in the province but, above all, it is economically irresponsible.”

Stephanie

Uncategorized

Name: Stephanie Cooper

Occupation: Caregiver

Stephanie lives in Victoria.  She has two children, one of whom has special needs and requires a great deal of in-home care and doctor visits.  Her living situation is convenient to the hospital, but rent is more than she can afford on income assistance.  She shares custody of the two children with her ex-partner.  Because her children do not spend more than 50% of their time with her, she only receives the amount of assistance a single person would receive, with no additional support for the children.

We support raising welfare rates. An income of $610 per month ($7320 annually) is significantly below the poverty line, and welfare rates have been frozen since 2007. As housing costs continue to rise without a corresponding increase in welfare, people are forced to make difficult choices to make ends meet. Child support from an ex-partner doesn’t provide any extra income because it is clawed back from the welfare cheque.

“I didn’t do anything wrong, you know…  I was wanting to and willing and able to be self-sufficient and care for my family, but there’s just no way that I could do it right now.”

Jackie

Uncategorized

Name: Jackie Pierre

Occupation: Telecommunications Industry Worker

Jackie lives in East Vancouver in co-op housing.  She is a single mother of two girls, one in grade school and the other in preschool.  Paying for childcare is her biggest struggle and where the majority of her income goes.  Summers are an especially difficult time, and she relies primarily on affordable summer camps and nearby relatives to piece together care for her elder daughter while she’s at work.  Despite all of the inconveniences surrounding childcare and working, she still works because it gives her a sense of self worth.

We support raising the minimum wage and providing universal child care. Child care fees for children under 6 are the second highest family expense after housing. BC currently has the highest fees in the country at, on average, $9000 per year for a 2 year old child.

“That’s one of the hardest parts of being a parent, for me, is the childcare situation.”