Wow another month has gone 3 weeks of it spent on the road. I wish I could say it was marvelously productive... it has in fact been the most difficult of all my stays so far. I left my free wheeling ways (temporarily) to find housing. This exercise was intended to help one of my new client friends get re-housed, but it proved to be an invaluable education for me. The housing situation is such that when one is earning $10-$12 an hour or collecting income support (you cannot do both) you will choose between a roof and food. But this is common knowledge to the 59% of the population who are ONE paycheck away from a financial crisis (global T.V. September'09).
First the social-worker connected to the women's shelter, I'll call her Emmy, sent me to social services. I was provided income support as always I found the workers compassionate and helpful. I applied for hardship assistance which is repaid in the future. I don't know if that will come out of RRSPs or disability ...it depends on what the Dr says about fixing my knee. Don't worry I will continue my journey...many people in the homeless population have to live with disability and daily pain. Back to my tale of the housing search.
Without ID they would provide up to three months of assistance (this would give most people the funds and time to order copies)...$235 personal needs funding, when an apartment was found they will add $375 residence allowance and a one time only damage deposit of up to $225. In this city a bachelor apartment rent for $575 minimum. So sharing is almost required... which often results in bad matches and people cycling in and out of the shelters.
Emmy became my social worker and everyday I would walk the 8 or 10 blocks to her office where she provided print-outs of available apartments. Of the 50 or so listed about 6 would be in our price range, after phoning we would have one or two viewings if any in a given day. But as soon as the intent to rent form was produced...the future landlord would back off. Excuses, about other showings or clearing it with partners or just "not our policy". So getting re-housed is a very difficult and demoralizing process for the poor and working poor.
Many property management companies run credit checks and reject people for a bad credit rating. Again we are looking at a policy that punishes people for nothing more then being poor. The only important information should be how long they lived in their last residence and if they were ever evicted for non-payment of rent. It is entirely likely that paying rent first, left these folks without the money to keep up other bills and resulted in the bad credit rating. When 70% of the household income is taken up by rent you end up juggling everything else. We need AFFORDABLE HOUSING everywhere in this country...housing that costs no more then 35% of a person's income.
This may seem like a digression from topic...but when I was waiting at the clinic one day I entered into a discussion with nurse. She suggested that housing prices did not have to come down because a poor person can always go to school, get a better job and not be poor. While this is true on an individual basis I asked her to look at it from the perspective of the whole community. A community needs people to serve coffee at the drive thru...wait tables at lunch time...vacuum the carpet in office buildings and in your home...watch your children etc etc. Make your own list of the low-wage earners who impact your life each day. Our communities need these people and these people need affordable housing.