Welfare Wednesday is the 3rd Wednesday of the month and a day that many people on income assistance look forward to. I suppose there are people who receive it and it does pay their rent and take care of their basic needs, but I haven’t met them yet.
Being on income assistance is a humbling experience. If you’re lucky enough to have a bank account (which I am), then the payment gets deposited directly into your bank account. If you don’t have a bank account, then you spend a lot of your Wednesday standing in line: first, to get your cheque, then to cash it, then to get food or whatever else you’ve been living without. Where do you then hide that money? If you live in a less-than-desirable neighbourhood or living situation, is there even such a thing as a safe place to hide money?
After living a month without any cash, it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that you suddenly have money and it’s time to celebrate. This, of course, can end with dire consequences. It’s a strange sensation indeed to have money in the bank (or under your mattress) and food in the cupboards and fridge after 2 to 3 weeks without either.
Contrary to popular belief, most people on income assistance are not milking the system for all it’s worth. Because it’s not worth much. By the time a person is receiving income assistance*, they’ve exhausted all other options and avenues. Their self-esteem is low, they feel helpless and defeated. It’s hard work to meet the absurd paperwork demands of the government while looking for a job or taking a back-to-work program while juggling less money than what you actually need to meet basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing while getting your child(ren) safely to and from school.
The next time you see a line up outside your local income assistance office on Welfare Wednesday, take a moment to consider if it was you.
*Click here if you’re interested in finding out about the new BC Welfare rules, which were released June 2012.