Can you imagine being told that you have only $375 per month with which you need to find shelter in Vernon while the average cost of a one-bedroom unit in B.C., outside of Vancouver, is $768?
Can you also imagine doing this when your mind is not functioning correctly and you need medication to help your mind just to make it through the day?
This is just the beginning plight of people who have mental illness and live as a person with disabilities (PWD). People who are mentally ill and living in B.C. on PWD receive $906.42 per month.
This is $10,872 per year and is well below the poverty line. This is also significantly below the low-income cut-offs (LICO) established by Statistics Canada.
But do we speak up?
Most of us are not able to due to the stigma associated with mental illness. Many are afraid to lose what we have, even though financially we cannot afford to feed ourselves. We are not able to eat a healthy diet according to the Canada Food Guide.
The money that is allotted to us by the PWD designation for food is being spent on shelter. Matters get worse yet because every year, as there are increases in rent from landlords, there is no cost of living increase on PWD.
That means even more money allocated to food goes to shelter.
The Disabilities Without Poverty Network is advocating for persons on PWD to receive $1,200 per month. This brings the person up to the poverty line and is what a senior on Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement receives.
There has been a change to what a person on PWD can earn separate from receiving support. Previously, a single person could earn $500 per month and now it has been changed to $800 per month.
This is like a slap in the face for persons on PWD. If a person were well enough to work, why would they be on a disability?
There is enough stigma and coping with having a mental illness, without the great stress of making it to the next disability cheque or to even have a healthy meal.
Thankfully to the groups involved with Disabilities Without Poverty Network, we have more voices of advocacy. sBut I want to do more as a person on PWD. I want to bring these issues to our MLA to be issues for the upcoming election. I am just one person but I believe that by breaking the silence that help can be obtained. The Disabilities without Poverty Network has three recommendations to make changes for persons on PWD.
• Increase the PWD benefit to $1,200 per month.
• Index the PWD benefit. This will ensure that the PWD benefit keeps pace with the rising cost of living and that inflation does not erode the ability of PWD recipients to meet their basic needs.
• Establish a shelter assistance program for people with disabilities. They propose the introduction of a rental assistance program for people with disabilities similar to the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters and Rental Assistance Program.
Being mentally ill or disabled in any way on PWD should not have to be a life sentence of poverty. In today’s world, one in five people will be diagnosed with a mental illness. We who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, do not have to live by past stigmas and live silently in pain. We in Canada can have hope for a better and more secure life. I am thankful that I live in Canada so I can have a voice. For more information about the Disabilities without Poverty Network go to www.bccpd.bc.ca/docs/overdueincreasepwd.pdf.
Various city councils in B.C. have been supporting the recommendation to increase PWD to $1,200 per month by writing Christy Clark, our premier.
Our own city council in Vernon is one of them. To help me have a voice in the upcoming election and petition Chirsty Clark to change PWD, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.