The other day I sent off a bunch of handwritten letters. They varied depending on whom I wrote them to. The one to the Ontario NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, went like this.
Dear Ms. Horwath,
Though I am not personally on Ontario Works, I have many conversations with those who are. They are scared. Rents are increasing and the money they receive is not nearly enough. They need an immediate increase in funding, but that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing to say that when someone on Ontario Works ends up homeless and couch-surfing, she should be allowed to save the rent-portion of the money she receives, rather than receiving less because she is not paying rent. He or she should be allowed to save this money for emergencies or to use for first or last months rent. This is so important, particularly given that there is no reliable Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit anymore.
I was a volunteer with the NDP going door-to-door last election, and I hope to do it against next election, but I’d also love to have the NDP do more – much more – for those living in poverty.
I felt completely crazy writing the letters, because the situation is so insane. People on social assistance should be given enough to pay their rent, to live their lives, etc, without worry. Couch-surfing as a way to save up a bit of money for emergencies is crazy. Yet I wrote the letters anyway, because I’m stubborn and want to remind the politicians that there are always small ways they could improve the lot for people living in poverty, even if they don’t think they have the political will to give decent amounts to those on social assistance.