I called into work today. Not to call in sick but to tell them I am stressed out as hell annnd I can’t afford to come to work. Why am I stressed out? Well its because the very institution that was established to help people in my situation also has a huge flaw. It operates on a principle of denying those in need the very things that are necessary to living a healthy lifestyle. The Department of community services stresses me the fuck out.
I’ve been denied funding for a new bed because DCS says I am working now and should be able to afford my own bed. Soo here is the math; On DCS I live on less than $9000 dollars a year. That pays my rent, my phone and covers any other needs (as defined by DCS). And ya know what, that is awesome! Cause as a person with a disability I would be up shits creek with zero income. Note however, this is not an income a person can thrive on.
I am making progress now and I work, I have a pretty good job. DCS allows me to keep up to $300 before deductions and then rakes back at 70% leaving me with a monthly income of roughly $900, maybe. I never have anymore than $200 in my account at any given time with the exception of the end of the month. This is when my DCS payment with deductions drops and I pay rent. All said and done I now make 10,800 a Yr roughly. Wayyy under the poverty line determined by our government.
Why am I stressed? Because I sleep on the floor. And I know millions of people around the world sleep on the floor. They sleep on the dirt and they have no food ect. Here in Canada, it is not the norm. Here we value providing even the homeless with shelter and a bed to sleep on if possible. We recognize that to feel safe, get a good nights sleep and to eat lends itself to a more productive lifestyle.
I know many people that have risen from the floor of poverty. They have navigated the system like I have. They have jobs now and support themselves and I am on that train. But none of them achieve that goal without advocacy. We have systems upon systems burdened with the sole purpose of advocating on behalf of people in need. Advocating to the Department of Community services for necessities.
My situation requires I write a letter explaining why I need a bed. It requires I put up with Months of missed and unreturned phone calls. It requires that my Psychiatrist write a formal letter explaining how important having a bed is to my sustained health and recovery. It requires my contact person at Connections to retrieve records that DCS has on file only to be submitted again and probably again because it never gets received the first time.
None of these people work for free, it takes hours of their time to address this sort of thing along with many other no brainer decisions. The cost of the bed I applied for is $179.00 Now again, do the math; Psychiatrists appointment/draft letter. Probably about $90.00 a visit, paid by MSI. Counsel from my contact person, document retrieval and draft letter which was then edited by a second contact person. I clocked at about 6 Hrs and I’m gonna guess a wage of about $15/Hr = $90.00 Paid for by Capital Health. Then consider the time I miss at work. I’ve missed 3 Shifts, ballpark that at $135.00 and take a quick look at the negative impact is has on my recovery. Can’t really put a price on that. DCS has well exceeded the cost of just simply issuing the special need request.
Today I could have probably walked to work. But I am sore as hell from sleeping on the floor. My hips and my back are all fucked up. My job also requires that I have an empathetic demeanor. I work with the public and empathy is not something I can fake. I can’t do my job when shit like this happens, I don’t care about my job when shit like this happens. I need to care to be successful at what I do. I’d say the same is true for many of the people who work in care positions that I directly interact with. I can tell when a person is indifferent, when they are not engaged in assisting me. Sometimes I even feel the impact of their disdain for having to care about the leech on society that they perceive me to be.
Calling into work today, it stressed me out. I don’t like to miss work.
On a positive note though I have the most amazing supervisor. My employer is aware that I have a disability and they listen to my needs. They listen to me about how DCS stresses me out and how sleeping on the floor impacts my day to day life. They offer me access to resources that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to utilize ie; legal services, psychologist, workplace counselling and supports. I am lucky.
I just called my Supervisor and she is always willing to listen. I can trust her to keep our conversations confidential. If she can help in any way, she offers. I hope that soon I will be able to recover into a full time job. I won’t have to navigate the gauntlet of Special Needs and the relentless stacking of barrier upon barrier being on DCS. I’ll always be accountable to big brother but I’m not alone in that sense. I have a feeling that rising above is in my future.
I just hope I don’t ever forget the guy or gal sleeping on the floor.