rent vs. food

Thanks to Kevin for recommending this blog by an employee at the rescue mission downtown. It has some great perspective:

So why the drop in numbers, despite the sunshine? It’s the first week of the month and everyone has their welfare or disability cheques. Yes, some of our clients will go on a bender but those are, quite frankly, a tiny fraction of our public meals clients. The numbers drop off in the dining room during this week because the clients are buying food. I think the dining room - the Mission in general - fulfills an important social function in some of our clients lives as well as providing for the necessities of life but, let’s face it, I can’t imagine they’re making the trek to the Mission every day because they love it here so much.

So the relationship seems clear - at least to me. If our clients had more money in social assistance the vast majority of them would spend it on food. I don’t think the social assistance system was designed intentionally to keep clients oppressed by poverty yet this is exactly what seems to be happening. The amount of money paid is an amount that one simply cannot live on yet clients will have their payments reduced - or ended - by picking up a part-time job. Why can clients not supplement their social assistance with work - up to a decent living income? (An income equal, perhaps, to the wage that clients social assistance caseworker is being paid) Why must people choose between the certainty of inadequacy or the tremendous gamble of entering the work force as disposable (i.e. minimum wage) labour and risk losing everything? And why, in a country where grocery store shelves are never empty, do people have to choose to between rent and food?