Courtney had problems of her own as well. There was abuse in her past and physical and mental disabilities that she was working to overcome. Eventually the past and the present clashed and it all became too much. She checked herself in to CSU. Through the recovery process it became clear she could not go back. She could not go back but she had nowhere else to go. She was homeless.
Courtney ended up staying at Today House for a few of weeks while she looked for a cheap place to live. Courtney is on EIA (welfare). On EIA a single person gets $600 a month for rent and another $140 for basic needs. The basic needs allowance is for everything else a person needs to live. Things like groceries, hydro, clothing, bus or cab fare, cell phone, internet, etc. If a person does not have a place to live, they don’t get the $600. EIA keeps it. They only get the $140. That is what the government values a person’s life at. I don’t know about you but my grocery bill alone for the month is more than that, and I don’t have any special dietary needs. Most people living in poverty, like Courtney, have special diets because of the cheap unhealthy foods and poor cooking habits they’ve only ever had access to. They have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart problems, food allergies and eating disorders. Courtney needs to eat gluten free, but because she couldn’t afford it, she ate whatever she could get her hands on, which left her sick a lot of the time.
Imagine trying to find an apartment for $600 a month in Steinbach. I’ll tell you right now, they don’t exist. Imagine trying to find an apartment if you have no money for a cell phone or WIFI. Impossible, as everything is advertised online these days. So Outreach bought her some minutes for her phone and gave her access to the WIFI at Today House and SCO so she could connect with landlords and apply for apartments.
After over a month of searching Courtney finally found an apartment for $695 (an amazingly good price by the way) and Irene negotiated with the landlord to bring it down to $675. The landlord was basically giving it to Courtney at cost at that point and would be making no profit in order to help this girl out. When EIA pays Courtney’s rent they take the extra $75 out of her basic needs allowance. This now leaves Courtney with $65 a month to live off of. That’s all she has to pay water, hydro and buy groceries. There will be no WIFI, TV or cell phone minutes or new runners because she simply can’t afford it. So, she has a roof over her head but nothing to fill her time except stare at the four walls.
Courtney is applying for disability, which would give her a little bit more money each month, but her disability application has been delayed and denied time after time because a certain paper needs to be submitted, or a doctor’s appointment needs to be made, or a doctor’s reference is now outdated and needs to be redone, or her case worker has been switched out. Courtney’s doctor is half an hour away in another town, so just finding a ride to get to all the doctor’s appointments is another barrier. Since she has no WIFI she can only check her emails when she walks over to SCO to use our WIFI. Her EIA case worker can’t call to connect with her because she has no minutes on her phone.
SCO has been able to help Courtney with her paperwork, given her rides to appointments, paid for phone minutes so she can connect with resources, set her up with the food bank and soup kitchen, but she still faces seemingly insurmountable barriers every day. To be quite frank Courtney’s story is a prime example of how broken the system is. There is barrier after barrier that she has to face. For a person who is already battling mental health issues trying to keep up with all the red tape is overwhelming. It feels like she’s being beaten down at every turn. Although EIA workers are trying their best to help people with the little resources they have available to them, and we really do appreciate your hard work, the EIA system is flawed and broken. It offers a means of survival, but not hope or any kind of quality of life that would help a person move forward and better their circumstance.