Please share about yourself, your experience with the disability assistance benefit, and anything else you would like people to know.
I live in Newton, British Columbia, and I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and am on the high functioning autistic spectrum. So basically, I have been on PWD for quite a while, I have not had a long term job for quite a while and I have been unable to keep a job due to my mental health issues, so I am currently unemployed and I haven’t been employed for probably about ten years now.
So basically, I’m very lucky I’m blessed being about 4% of the population with PWD status who lives in a subsidized unit. Before that I was not and we basically as a single mom with two girls, we struggled a lot because obviously you can’t wear and eat it on the same piece of bread, so you’d have to pick between either buying clothing, or food, or most of it would go to rent. You were constantly struggling between three different things all the time. But most of the time you could get your rent paid but you wouldn’t have enough money for basic necessities, like if you were to get proper groceries, healthier choices, if you wanted vitamins. A lot of the time I was saving up money for things like dentistry, that wasn’t covered by the ministry coverage. So yeah it really cuts slim into your budget, not having enough money to live on.
And of course accessing their things they would make you feel really bad. Like have you asked your family for money, have you been to the food bank, like they’ll run through this whole long laundry list of things where it’s degrading. It’s like you’d rather go without than ask for help. They say can you ask your family members but sometimes my family members are in a worse position than me. So how can I ask them for money when they don’t have any? And then how embarassing is that to have to admit you don’t have any money, to the people what would have to give you money?
Definitely with the cost of living, the amount of the shelter portion and the support portion that we’re to live on isn’t keeping up with what’s going on. I mean, we’re at 375 dollars a month, but the average place is between $800 or $900 a month. So they say well that’s your shelter portion, so if you phone them for a crisis grant and they say “well what did you spend your money on?” They say well that’s not what your money’s for, it’s to feed yourself, so I say well you don’t understand – If I don’t take it out of my food money I don’t pay the rent and then we end up homeless. It’s like they’re constantly asking “what do you do with all your money?” Well, what do you think I do with my money? I have to pay rent with it.
And now, because of Covid 19, we’ve all been given extra 300 per check, and it’s like night and day. If this doesn’t stay, I don’t know what people are going to do, and I’m one of the ones that’s lucky I’m in an actual subsidized unit. I hate to I think what people are doing out there, we’re working and struggling where we are never mind them. I feel really bad, I wish it was way more units like this for people. There just isn’t, there’s such a large demand and there’s very little money and whatever is built is his years away. Like I I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t know.
What do you dream support for people with disabilities could look like?
A dream for support . . . making dentistry an essential service, not for the rich. I know a lot of people have their teeth pulled out. Perfectly good teeth, because they can’t fix them, and they live in chronic pain, with teeth pain. That’s one, another thing would be to have a permanent increase to the financial checks. Not significantly, but at least could we keep the 300, you know. At least meet us somewhere. You can’t take us back down to eleven hundred and something dollars a month later on. It’s not enough like even if they could keep the 300 that would be great.
I mean to buy a steak, people on ministry do not have money to buy a piece of steak. It’s rare. It’s a rarity having steak in a cart with children. It’s just rare. You have to go for the cheapest, unhealthy options because we have to go 30 days on this money. So whatever we have, we have to stretch it as far as it’s gonna go.
“Oh can we have this money?” “No, we can’t afford that.” You know, it’s steak. It’s not filet mignon, just a regular piece of steak. I mean, we didn’t have steak when my kids were growing up, just didn’t happen. You know, I can’t put backpacks together and buy school supplies and buy steak. It’s just not gonna happen. It’s just reality, right? And a lot of people live way below . . . the way they shouldn’t be living like that. Like mouldy shoes and no jackets on their kids to school – and that’s not right. We’re living in Canada, you know. When you can’t even buy a coat for your kids ’cause you can’t afford it, like the child ends up getting sick, it’s not good. I mean, I hope there are some changes coming. We don’t know with this pandemic. We don’t know anything, but looking forward yeah if we could get an increase in the check that would be great.
I love cats and I’m an artist. I love any colour, I’m blue person, and I love yellow, because it represents the sunshine, and teal blue because of the water. I love cats, anything with fur.
Some of Bridgette’s art: