Anything I write that has to do with writing will be in From Pico's Pen, my author's blog. Everything that doesn't fit any of the sites I write on will be here. This is my practice. I could have kept it private and farmed out the good stuff but I found my readers like too much of it to do that. It isn't a diary because there are things I keep to myself but you can learn a great deal about me from the randomness you will find here.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Free Government Housing in Canada is a MYTH!

Rant time! I keep seeing posts on Facebook saying that people are upset that a minimum wage hike to fifteen dollars per hour is disqualifying them from free housing. I know the source is American, but this is being enthusiastically shared by my Canadian friends. I don't know how the system works in the USA but I have been in the Canadian system and this is not how things work.

This rant is for everybody who has never had to live in the Canadian government housing system. Government housing is subsidized it is NOT free for those living in it. It costs 30% of whatever your gross income is, be that welfare, employment insurance or wages. Since the program was created the costs of food and transportation have skyrocketed. When the program was created 30% was comfortable, now it is far from it. I don't know how many provinces do this but in New Brunswick they add a charge for heating so we effectively were paying 35%.

Our experience shows that the “free housing” experience gets worse than that. You don't get any discount for getting sick and missing work for a few days. I worked my butt off in the call centre I was working in and earned a couple of nice big bonuses. When my rent was calculated, the housing system based their calculations on my wages with bonuses. That might sound fair, but I got those bonuses only the first month of the year. Their math pretended I got that every month. By their calculations they didn't take 30% of my bonuses, they took all of it and then more. My new rent was 50% of my income. I appealed the decision and was denied. I went to our political representative and was told that it was more important for us to pay our government subsidized housing rent than it was to eat. Otherwise, we'd end up living on the street (this is not an exaggerated paraphrase). We borrowed money to put electricity in our hunt camp did some other upgrades and moved back to the place where we'd been forced to leave two years earlier.

Social services in Canada has consistently advised every time we pointed out that we didn't have a humanly possible to follow budget, to ask for money from family/friends or borrow it from any credit cards we might have.

While living in government housing, I got to talk to other young families. They are all stuck in the same hopeless battle. If they aren't getting help from somewhere, they cheat the system by working under the table. The system is badly in need of an overhaul. I'm all for punishing cheaters, but you have to give the people who aren't cheating a chance. Please only punish the egregious cheaters not the poor single mom earning an extra thirty bucks babysitting each week so that her kids can have enough to eat.

If my readers don't get anything else out of this, stop believing this free housing fairy tale. It doesn't exist in Canada the way you think it does.