A simple playground game - would you rather? You can only pick one!
- Would you rather jelly beans or gummy bears?
- Would you rather go swimming or to the movies?
- Would you rather get a puppy or a kitten?
A simple PEI social assistance game - would you rather? You can only pick one!
- Would you rather have a heated apartment, or food until the end of the month?
- Would you rather the prescription medication and supplies you need to be healthy and well, or pay your rent on time?
- Would you rather have a safe affordable place to live, or keep your pets who have been your constant companions for many years?
I first met David (not his real name) and his family soon after being elected. They contacted me because he was in housing need. David had poor health and limited mobility; his partner had been recently hospitalized and was unlikely to return home and as a result he couldn’t meet his financial obligations for rent. David needed to get on ‘the list’ for social housing, which proved to be a real challenge and took many many phone calls, emails, assessments and site visits to confirm. He also needed home care support - a separate application process and list - and a health assessment, which involved yet another application, with letters of reference and doctor submissions.
Getting David a motorized wheelchair took months of battle with Disability Support and the insurance company - without it he was housebound, unable to move more than a few feet to the bathroom. His main companions throughout were his beloved cats - one who had been with David for almost 19 years. The stress of months of financial insecurity and housing worry eventually pushed David to a heart attack, and emergency surgery off-Island. On his return, he was reassessed at higher risk and therefore a greater priority for social housing need.
The call came on a Friday afternoon, out of the blue, that a subsidized apartment in a wonderful building had been vacated and allocated to David. It felt like a miracle - there were tears of true joy. He was moved in by the end of the following week with a few sparse possessions and the cats, the motorized wheelchair and the big TV. But, in the rush and the hustle someone forgot to tell David the catch: the new apartment has a no pets policy - no exceptions. His old apartment, unsafe and inaccessible as it was, had already gone to a new tenant, the ramp pulled down.
So we had to ask David: would you rather have a safe affordable place to live, or keep your pets who have been your constant companions for many years? Would you rather put down your friend of nearly twenty years to keep the apartment where you can use the bathroom with dignity?
Would you rather?
Did you know? A senior citizen who has only their OAP (Old Age Pension) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan) gets a maximum of $1200 a month, depending on how long they contributed. Subsidized seniors housing, where rent is capped at 25% of income, is the only way many seniors can afford safe, appropriate, and independent housing. The waiting list for subsidized seniors housing is measured in years - there are hundreds waiting for a space. Priority is given to those in greatest need - with health issues, mobility issues, sudden change in circumstances - but when the list is so long, everyone is a priority. If a senior needs accessible housing because of limited mobility, the options are even more limited as there are so few truly accessible spaces in the province. The province owns and operates a number of housing units, and has contracts of agreement with many more privately owned and operated units. This increases availability but reduces options for clients who must meet the criteria of the owner/operators as well as the province to qualify for a space.
Hannah Bell is the MLA for District 11 (Charlottetown-Parkdale) and the Green Party's Finance Critic