I’m careful about how I talk to my daughter about money because I don’t want her to feel like we’re poor. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with poor, and when she asks, “Are we middle class? Are we upper class?” I mean, she has an understanding of where people fit. I always say, “We’re working class” and I say “Most people are working class” because it doesn’t matter whether you’re middle, up or lower, you work. Everybody works. But if there’s a month or two where I’m low and I don’t have enough money for something, I won’t talk to her about that because I don’t want her to worry. I don’t want her to stress. I don’t want her to be thinking, “Do we not have enough money for food?” or “ What if I have to get a job?” She doesn’t need that extra stress, so, I limit what I tell her.
Three years ago, I went for an annual review and the woman who was assessing my file, I am usually a fairly strong person, within five minutes I was in tears and was like that for the whole hour and a half that I had the meeting. She would look at my bank statements and make comments about where I had made purchases. And then had questions about my daughter’s father and why he wasn’t involved and she didn’t believe what I was telling her. And it’s basically being in a situation where one person with a pen has absolute control over your financial situation. It was brutal, it was demeaning…. I’ve been treated badly before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been treated in such a deliberately ignorant way. It was awful.
If you don’t have documentation, they can cut you off social assistance. It’s very simple. If they type a number in wrong, you get cut off and it’s basically a telephone message; there’s no way of knowing, unless you, unless you call. And then, if you realize that you are cut off, then it usually takes three or four days by the time they can issue a cheque and by that time, your rent will have been due, like the bills will have already come in.
You grow up powerless, so you feel powerless. You pick the wrong boyfriends, you trust the wrong people.
Just because you have less, doesn’t mean that you are less.
When people say about people living in poverty, “Why don’t they go back to school?” Well, let me tell you why they don’t goddamn go back to school. Do you know how long it’s gonna take me to pay back that ten thousand dollar student loan? Why doesn’t the government say, “Okay, you can stay on social assistance” which means your social assistance cheque would buy your groceries every month, it would pay your rent, it would pay your utilities. Not your student loan. Then it would be a win-win situation, even for the government.
People look down on us, and say oh well, people live on the system because they want to live on the system. Okay, here’s the scenario, here you have a single mother with a couple kids at home, say she has the intelligence that she would like to go back to college or university…. Here’s the scenario, the government says, okay, all right, you wanna go back to school, you get no assistance so, you take out a straight student loan …. you know, I believe if you miss the boat on education that’s okay, you take out a student loan for your transportation and maybe your child care, your tuition and your books. But to pay your rent, to buy your groceries, to pay your utility bill? That is crap.
Christmas, I don’t like Christmas at all. That’s for a number of reasons but the pressure at Christmas to buy gifts and to give gifts. And the kind of gifts that are expected. Christmas is always hard and I’m always glad when it’s over. Christmas doesn’t feel like a holiday. I’m sure this is true for so many people, there’s just way too much stress.
When it comes down to it, it’s the stigma, it’s the judgments, those are the things that are most harmful.
I think in July there are even more changes now that I can’t even explain what, what the changes are. I actually called my worker at the social assistance office and he couldn’t really explain it to me either. But he gave me a 1-800 number to call so, um, I have to try to work it out because all of a sudden things are going to change and you’ve got new forms to fill out and….. the shitty thing is if you make a mistake on the form, you don’t get a call. They cut you off, you get a letter, you get a form letter, saying “I’m sorry due to whatever part of this Ontario Disability Act you are no longer receiving benefits” and then trying to get that all sorted out. Hopefully by the time your rent’s due. But there are certain things that you can do if you, I don’t know, if you have friends that are in the same boat, you can come up with creative ways to cover each other when you’re short.