Single mother struggling with lack of support

I know my problem is not new or unique and maybe Premier Clark will address this at some point during her reign but I’m not holding my breath. I am bringing my story to light as a last resort. I am at my wits end over lack of help, and the Ministry of Social Development and Housing. I know government aid is a last resort of help. And so it should be. I am a single mother of four looking for work (over 100 resumes sent out within the last 90 days), actively looking for work, desperately looking for work.

I can’t ask for help from FMEP to up my child support which hasn’t changed in 10 years despite them having my next 10 years of child support in a holding account. Why, because even though I have a maintenance order in place the Ministry of Social Development wont release my maintenance rights back to me. My rent and support portions from the ministry only cover about two-thirds of my rent (yes I am behind and have been despite my best efforts to find work over the past four months).

Now my rent isn’t sky high, $1,250 per month plus utilities for a three-bedroom home. When I lost my job and started collecting EI last year I downsized to save myself $400 per month. It never occurred that in a year and a bit I wouldn’t find employment. I have done all that the ministry has asked, including working with an employment counsellor and returning to college to upgrade my skills. My food for a month for myself and 3.5 kids is $200 per month, which leaves us hungry but we make due. And so I fall behind in my rent (My oldest is attending college and has an unpaid tuition bill every month as I can’t ask for help from FMEP to help with his education costs as I was granted in my custody order because the ministry won’t let me deal with my maintenance rights.) I have loan and contract payments for things that were gotten either before I lost my job or as “any means possible to access funds” as I was asked to before I received social assistance.

Are they now helping me with my payments? No. So every month I risk losing my vehicle (my only means of transportation) to access jobs outside of the Penticton area. And while I’m on the unemployment train, steadily sending out resumes daily and continue to apply for jobs, I use gas and insurance is due every month. Do they help with that or take that into consideration? No. So when I went in this morning to address an eviction notice (My landlord is wonderful, don’t get me wrong but she can’t wait for me to become employed) I am told that maybe they can help — they have to talk to her, but if they help they can’t even cover half of what is owing. Well if you had paid for my full rent in the first place I wouldn’t be in this situation.

I know how to follow a budget and am not frivolous by any means. My only “extra” in my budget is my blackberry — it is not only my home phone but my internet access as well so I can keep sending out resumes and do my schooling. How do they expect be to balance a budget that is $300 short every month? I don’t know where to go from here, things have got to change. The ministry only pays a $700 shelter allowance a month for a family. Where can I find this mystical rental unit in our area for this cost that houses my children and myself? Can’t be done. I have three boys and one girl or I could put them in the same room. It is a no-win situation. I wouldn’t expect to ever live comfortably on income assistance, that’s not what it’s there for and I would much rather be working, but never in my life did I expect to fall so far behind because of their lack of realistic costs of raising a family.

Now before you go screaming “just take any job”, I can’t even get that first one, never mind a second one to help catch myself up. I work when I can doing contract bookkeeping, but as soon as I earn a wage the ministry takes it dollar for dollar. So much for getting ahead that way. I know there has to be some kind of help out there, but where can people like myself access it? The poverty advocate can only help so much.

Just a thought to our government: before we go helping other countries in need maybe we should look in our own back yard and fix the problems we have here.

Laura Murray