"I am only allowed $554 for my rent (when you are on Social Assistance) for a three bedroom, which is absolutely ridiculous."
First of all I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell you about my personal experience with homelessness and housing instability. I am a single mother of three children. The two youngest ones live with me and the eldest is in a group home due to his behavioural problems.
It was 2004 when I became homeless for the first time, after arriving back in Canada from a bad relationship in Arkansas. There was not enough room for me and my kids to stay at my Mom's. I decided to go to a homeless shelter. That is where we lived for almost three months. That reason being was I could not find adequate housing for my children and when I did, I could not afford the rent. I am only allowed $554 for my rent (when you are on Social Assistance) for a three bedroom, which is absolutely ridiculous.
So after almost three months at the shelter I moved out with a friend just to get out of the shelter. Don't get me wrong, the shelter was good to us but three months is too long at a shelter with your children. Needless to say, after about a year I was back at the shelter, the friendship didn't work out. I was back to square one. I looked again for private housing but couldn't find anything in my budget, so I had no choice but to take the dreadful London Housing. If you have experienced what I have and know what I know about housing, you will know what I mean. In my experience they were dirty inside. And outside, there were guns, drugs, dealers, violence, and alcohol all around you. It is hard to get out once you are in housing as you don't want to go back to the shelter. My daughter witnessed horrible things, which I hope she forgets.
It seemed at the time, and still seems to me, that if you are homeless they put you in anywhere, just to get you off the streets, like we should be happy about that. So on May 30th, 2006 - after a gun fight at the housing complex - I once again packed up my stuff, grabbed my children and off to the shelter we went. I was there until September 2006. I finally got my own private apartment, a two bedroom that was $705 a month for rent. As a result, I had to take money out of our food budget to make up for this higher rent. I had to do it, but it was worth it. I decided I was not raising my children in the environment where I was previously living.
After four or five months the mould started growing and the heat stopped working. My children became very sick (my son still to this day suffers from bronchial effects) and I did not know what to do. I had enough of the shelter life and did not want to return to a housing complex. Then one day in the middle of November I had a knock on the door. It was a worker from the shelter. She said that the city was starting a pilot program called
Hostel to Homes and I could participate if I wanted to. It was a dream come true. She saw the mould and the heating and took us out of the apartment. We went back to the shelter for health and safety reasons. I got help to find another place within a week and have been living in the same place ever since. I am happy to say that it is a private apartment, not a housing complex. I am happy and so are my children. But there are so many other people stuck in what was our situation.
Another thing, which really angers me, is that our city officials are seeing if they have the funds in the budget to keep this program going. Meanwhile, the City budgeted a quarter of a million dollars on these metal florescent trees for the downtown. The Hostel to Homes program helps the homeless find housing and stay involved with the families for up to eighteen months. As you walk further into downtown you see youth, adults and seniors that are homeless and asking for change for food. Now you tell me, what is more important in our budget, florescent metal trees or homeless human beings? There is seriously something wrong in our society! We the society, need programs like the Hostel to Homes program, not metal trees!