I didn’t think they work overtime but apparently they do because a woman from the welfare office called at 5:45 pm just as i was heading out the door for dinner; that started at 6. I didn’t want to not take the call because with welfare you never know when you will get another chance and got off the phone at 6:25. I will bring you up to speed on the welfare experience first.
Whenever I have to deal with something unpleasant I try to view it as a learning experience; it helps me distance myself from the situation and look at it as “research” and nothing personal. Dealing with welfare is one of those times I do “research”. Several years ago I vowed to die, living in a cardboard box under a bridge before I ever darkened the doorway of another welfare office because i was treated like a plague on society. I have applied for welfare in the past, at times when I had left JC and I was treated with such disrespect I stopped the application process before I even got any money. I also ended up going back to JC. I remember the last time I was at a welfare office I was treated so poorly I thought to myself, “If I continue to come here I will never get off welfare or I will end up killing myself because my self-esteem will be nil. It was bad enough leaving an abusive relationship but then to go for help and be treated worse and like I was an idiot was too much.
BUT I have to say the woman was very nice, helpful and respectful. So some things have changed for the better. Since I was in the last time they have stream lined procedures and a person applies on-line and someone calls them and does an interview over the phone. They give you a list of paperwork that has to be brought into the local office. Once you have done that someone else will call you and you answer further questions, basically the same questions you answered online and in the first phone interview.
When you apply online you are asked if you are escaping an abusive relationship (which was never asked before and if you volunteered the information they basically ignored you and no one had information on resources anyway). I was told you must have left within the last 6 months but when I told them he has stalked me online and tried to get me fired and evicted within the last year and I have had 2 heart attacks they fast tracked me anyway.
The woman who was interviewing me the night of the dinner was very apologetic about making me wait while the computer generated the reports she needed (as was the fellow who I talked to the week before). Mind you I was respectful and patient also which I think goes a long way when dealing with these departments. Just because I was treated like crap 5 years ago it is not going to help my case at all the be rude now.
She was asking me about my finances questions like, do you have any savings, No. any retirement savings bonds.No. Any pension income. No. Any spousal support. No. Finally I said….. “I don’t even have any pop bottles to return.” and she laughed and then we were really relaxed with each other. She asked if I had any questions and I said in fact I did. I asked about being funded to reeducate and she said, “Not that I agree with this policy but the government doesn’t usually pay for someone to get an education. I personally think it is stupid, why wouldn’t they educate a person so they can get off welfare?”
I agreed!! It makes little sense to me. She asked what I wanted to take at school so I told her and she said she thought it would be great if I could and to talk to my local office when I went in to sign the paperwork.
The next day I got a call in the morning and went down to sign my paperwork and was given a cheque for $83 and will receive my cheque for the month of June this coming Wed. So I was very pleased about that.
The kicker in this whole thing is; I have to be on welfare before I can apply for disability benefits and that can take a couple of months to be approved. Everyone was very apologetic about it and they all tell me I will get a lot more on disability. Which is a good thing considering I will be getting $635 a month on welfare. They allot a person $375 for rent for the month. There was a 8 page handout at the office listing local rentals, you can’t even get a room to rent in a house for less than $400 so what people do I don’t know, not eat I guess, because if you want room and board it is going to cost you $700 or more a month. I know there are some hell holes that rent a room for less but God help you if there is ever a fire in them or you hope to get some sleep because if the noise doesn’t keep you awake the bedbugs will.
Families with children get substantially more and there are various programs for rent subsidy and extra dental for the children.
I did ask about funding for school and was given a different government department to contact and will do that on Monday.
As for information pamphlets on domestic abuse being available in the welfare office, I saw 2-3 that were focused on aboriginal women, I saw nothing pertaining to any other culture or English/white Canadian women. Once again reinforcing the stereotype that domestic abuse is confined to lower class, uneducated, immigrants, and native Indians. Although I realize that native Canadians may need a different approach to domestic violence because of their culture I feel there should be information for all cultures and classes of people.
I was not given any information on support groups, counselors, and would not have been given information on education if I hadn’t asked for it. Many times a victim is in such a numb state they don’t think to ask about support services. I feel if a woman says she is escaping an abusive relationship she should automatically be referred to a specialist in domestic abuse.
BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada
I will keep you up to date on how the rest of this process plays out. So far it has been a much more pleasant experience than previous attempts to get help. I also happened to notice that it is clearly marked on my file that I am coming from an abusive situation, which is a good thing. Things are getting better, it takes times, these things don’t happen overnight but obviously attempts are being made and working to some degree.
I got to the dinner just as the lineup for dinner was finishing and I will fill you in on that in my next post.