September 25, 2020

BY ALEX RIESE

According to an Oct. 17 article in the Waterloo Region Record, living on the street is more feasible than staying in rooming houses when you’re living off of disability cheques.

That’s the picture painted by Dan Simpson of Kitchener, who chooses to live in a tent in downtown Kitchener instead of living in a rooming house. Simpson was injured after being hit by an SUV in 2012.

The accident left him with two broken legs, a cracked pelvis and internal bleeding. Since the accident, the former construction worker has been living on disability cheques that pay $660 per month. There is a bit of a disparity here, considering the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Kitchener is around $750 per month. Therefore, Simpson can only really afford to live in a rooming house, which he doesn’t want to do because he says that “most rooming houses are full of alcoholics and junkies.”

The Ontario Disability Support Program is a social assistance initiative founded by the Ontario government to ensure that people with permanent disabilities can live a normal life. Its main goal, as stated by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, is to help people with disabilities pay for living expenses like food and housing. Unfortunately, when people like Simpson choose to live on the street because the money he’s getting from disability can’t cover his living expenses, that makes it hard to believe that disability funds really are doing what they’re supposed to.

This is not a new concern. A Feb. 11, 2002 article in the Ottawa Citizen found cases of people living in similar circumstances who had to dip into food money to make monthly rent. According to the article, the Ontario government cut the social assistance rates by over 22 per cent in 1995, while cost of living was steadily rising.

Whether it’s through taxation or better financial management, something more has to be done to assist those with disabilities. Though Simpson is happy living in a tent, he and many others would prefer to be able to afford a safe and clean apartment. They need all the help they can get. And soon.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.

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