My family is kind of shocked by what has happened and I really want people to know about it. We have kind of kept it secret from people outside of close friends and family, which is weird but people just equate poverty with somekind of lack of morality and put fault and blame on you for your situation. Wanting to speak out publicly but seeing the horribly callous things people not affected by this are saying is just heartbreaking.
Im 33 and my partner is 27. She has a 9 year old from a previous relationship and we are expecting a baby in November. We live in Hamilton, Ont where the housing crisis is getting worse. We were living in a cockroach infested apartment with leaky ceilings, in an unsafe drug filled neghbourhood. We were harassed by our upstairs neighbor who had mental health issues and our landlords cut the power on us when we got behind on rent. We were paying $1200 a month. Any places we looked at in the spring of this year so we could escape were $1400 and up for a two bedroom that didnt make you scared to step out at night or make you think you were going to be carried away by bugs.
We got accepted into the Basic Income program at the last minute. It was kind of a hail mary because I was out of a job and doing scattered freelance work, and the only stable income was being withheld from my partner by her boss at a bar that suddenly went up for sale and locked its doors without warning. We needed to escape but could see no means to do it.
When we got the acceptance letter we burst into tears. We signed a lease on a small apartment in a safer neighborhood for $1500/month knowing that the income was guaranteed. My partner went for a beauty and makeup program and was able to make the payments knowing we had food and housing security. She wouldnt be forced to go back to work immediately after giving birth to our baby. I have been teaching myself coding and building a music education website while looking after our child at home. I had plans to attend a program at Mohawk College for creative arts business and entrepreneurship. We have actually been adjusting to a secure life while dealing with PTSD from a previous life of fighting over no money, feeling hopeless about job prospects, and the horrible living conditions from a shady apartment.
Upon hearing the news we are devastated. I have been trying to keep her spirits up but I finally had a moment to myself today and I burst into tears and felt completely hopeless. We were guaranteed the assistance we needed to straighten our lives out and have a family. Now I really don’t know if I can go back to school as I already have a ton of student debt, I couldn’t afford to take on more. Work is precarious at best in Hamilton, I haven’t been called back for any jobs, I don’t have experience in most of the technical or labor positions, I dont have the money to pay for job related purchases like tools or boots or nice clothes, and we dont have a car. I’m not qualified but if I were to get hired I would still need another job or maybe a third to secure our family financially. We were given the chance to sign the lease because we disclosed our Basic Income payments to our landlord. She was clear that we got this place because of that guaranteed payment. Now even our housing is in doubt.
This gave us an opportunity to be safe, secure, eating healthy, avoiding financial stress and mental anguish that comes from feeling trapped and hopeless. Because we didn’t earn it, people out there say we don’t deserve it. Come tell that to our 9-year-old daughters face. This is about people that were given a chance to catch up enough to survive. We weren’t eating surf and turf every night and supporting an expensive drug habit. We were planning for a future to support a family. The arguments against this are baseless, and the fact that the program was canceled even before they bothered to come up with a better solution is garbage. There are lives crushed and people now have to hold their breath. We don’t even know when payments will stop. Did we just recieve the last one? They are playing politics with peoples lives and futures.
The amount of blame put on people below the poverty line amounts to victim shaming and needs to be treated as such. Even if it is the rare case of a person in a situation of financial hopelessness of entirely their own making, are they and their family expected to be left to their inevitable collapse? Is it really so satisfying to watch people drown? We were given a chance to better ourselves and had the rug pulled out from underneath us almost at the same time. To have hope given to you and snatched away so quickly is as debilitating as it is heartless. There is always an excuse to not help out those who live in poverty because that label of poor comes before the person and you are treated as a sub-human who deserves what they get.