Friday, March 2, 2012

Living in Poverty

I live in poverty. Outside of the time I became homeless for a short period of time, this is the hardest time I have ever had with supporting myself. In fact, things are so bad that I cannot even afford to support myself; I have to get outside assistance from family and friends on a continuous basis just to be able to 'exist'.

I will start by explaining how I came to arrive at my current situation. Four years ago I attended Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). I received a student loan, which was three weeks late, that covered the bulk of my expenses. It did not however allot for all my expenses and as such I sought employment. Bad idea. My second term student loan was revoked as I had earned too much money. My parents paid for that; $4000+. When I returned home in April I went to work to help save money for my second year. Again, I was penalized for trying to support myself and was denied a student loan entirely thus ending any chance I had for continuing my post secondary education.

I remained at my job and quickly became the manager. I did this for a little over a year or so until the owner decided to sell his franchise. When the sale was finalized I was laid off and began receiving employment benefits. Though my EI benefits were a few hundred dollars less a month than my salary had been, I was still managing to clear over $1000 a month. During this time I applied for funding from Employment Nova Scotia to return to get a career diploma from a private college. I was approved for funding and am now attending Eastern College enrolled in the Public Relations program.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to return to get an education and begin a promising career. However, had I known in advance how I would be forced to live, I may have reconsidered the option for another year and saved some money to help so I would not be living below the poverty line. Currently, the minimum wage in Nova Scotia is around the $10 mark (for ease of math we will use $10). That means if I had a minimum wage job working 40 hours a week, I would have a paycheck after two weeks in the area of $600+ dollars (trying to low-ball the estimates for effect). That equals out to about $1200 a month. Now, this still isn't a huge chunk of change but it is a sufficient amount for survival if one is frugal. However (and I looked for the numbers but cannot find them off hand) I am fairly certain that the 'poverty' line in Canada is in the neighborhood of $12,000 a year but let's be generous and say $10,000. With a full time job you are barely making over that line. Let's talk about me now.

Employment Nova Scotia has somehow come to the conclusion that an acceptable rate of income for a single adult in the city of Halifax is $394 bi-weekly. That evens out to $788 a month. A month. In what most people make in two weeks, I make just a little bit more for the entire month. I have been living on less than $10,000 since October of 2011 and will continue to do so until November of 2012. So let's break down some expenses for you now: $400 a month for rent; $100 a month for school expenses; $100 a month on internet and telephone (and yes I kind of do need them as an up and coming Public Relations specialist; PR people by the nature of their job must always be aware of what is happening in the world); my other miscellaneous expenditures that include life insurance, travel expenses, perishable food items (I visit the food bank once a month in order to eat), toiletries, laundry and any other random expenses that occur. This does not leave much chance for error.

So why don't I get a job you ask? Well I have tried. I have even had a few interviews but nothing beyond that. I am also limited to what I am entitled to work. Once I pass the narrow margin of 15 hours a week (two, eight-hour shifts) I start losing my funding. As it stands, my options are as follows: continue as is, searching for part-time work, sucking the life from my family and friends who are required to support me, burdening the food bank and living with depression as a result of my poverty OR I can abandon my funding, go to work full time 40+ hours a week on top of my schooling, run myself into the ground physically and risk the possibility of low quality school work or worst case, failing. I have tried contacting Employment Nova Scotia about an increase in my living allowance; I am still waiting. What do I do?

I despise living this way. I feel incompetent, incapable, useless and a burden upon those who care for me. I cannot afford to have friends. I cannot afford to go out. I cannot afford to buy nice things for myself, my family, my girlfriend or her daughter. I cannot afford to live. No one should have to live in poverty and though I still have it better than some, it isn't a question of IF I will end up with them if things continue this way, but WHEN.