Before I got onto the Basic Income Program I had been a recipient of ODSP for many years, due to PTSD. On ODSP I often had to pick between bills or groceries and frequented food banks. I had to buy all of my clothing used, only owning for myself 5 shirts and 4 pairs of pants, in order to make sure that my children had new clothes each season. On ODSP there was financial stress every single day, always. Last winter I had to go without winter boots for myself the entire season, to ensure that my children not only had appropriate winter clothing but that they had gifts at Christmas time.
On ODSP, I was not paid enough to afford therapy to learn the necessary skills to recover my mental health and succeed in life. ODSP does not provide funding for such services. Our local OHIP-covered services focus mostly on medication, with some focus on behavioural therapy, but they are lacking in services that teach clients how to recover from trauma and go on to live productive lives. The services that are available have very long wait lists.
When I learned that I was approved for the Basic Income Program, I realized that I would be playing an important role in showing whether this program works and how it could be implemented long-term to lift people out of povery and enable them to work. I immediately developed a two-year plan for myself so that I would be healed and ready to work by the end of the pilot.
My two-year plan on the program started with paid therapy, peer support and support groups, to enable me to leave isolation and develop a strong support system for myself in my community. Once these were all in place, the next step was to begin volunteer work around the city, as I have been unable to work for many years and do not have any relevant work experience or references to include on my resume. Next, I would begin local job training programs through the city to prepare myself with the skills needed to go back to work. At the end of the pilot my plan was to be employed and not return to ODSP. Unfortunately, I was only on the Basic Income Program for 5 months before the cancellation was announced. After this announcement on July 31st, all of the symptoms I had been recovering from and managing flared up again, along with new anxiety and depression due to loss of income and the possibility of homelessness.
Now it has been announced that the program will be over in March 2019. I am scrambling trying to fit my two year plan into one year. My stress and anxiety levels are much higher than they had been during the first 5 months on the program, which makes it significantly harder to be as productive as I need to be. There is a high chance that I am going to end up back on ODSP now that the program has been cancelled, and I still lack the needed experience or training on my resume to be considered employable. The impact of this on my mental health has been profound. If I have to go back onto ODSP, my family will have to go back to using food banks, and a lot of my time and energy will have to go back into managing my mental health while not being able to afford to RECOVER from it.