COMMUNITY START UP AND MAINTAINANCE BENEFIT

The Ontario budget for 2012 calls for the cancellation of the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit and the Home Repairs Benefit (CSUMB).  The cuts are scheduled to take effect in January 2013.

Cutting these vital benefits will ensure that many people are thrown into an endless cycle of poverty, violence, houselessness, isolation and institutionalization.

The cuts will have a devastating impact on the nearly 900,000 people living in Ontario who currently rely on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for their incomes.  OW and ODSP currently offer despicably low monthly rates, already far below the poverty line.

Most people living on OW and ODSP are renters. CSUMB, sometimes called simply CSU, provides funds of up to $800 once every two years, for people on OW and ODSP to maintain their housing. Essentially, this is a homelessness prevention benefit.  It is also about offering people the necessary economic mobility required to keep themselves, and their children, in safe living conditions.

It helps people pay for things like first and last month’s rent deposits. It helps people buy or replace furniture. It helps people put down deposits on utilities or pay overdue utility bills.  The loss of CSUMB will hurt many people who otherwise cannot afford these expenses. OW and ODSP incomes do not allow any wiggle room for one to save for the costs that the CSUMB currently covers.

People on assistance are already getting free bus tickets from churches to get to the food bank.  No one is saving up first and last month’s rent!!

The people who will be hurt by these cuts include:

women and young people who are fleeing violence where they live or are trying to move from transition shelters into permanent homes after experiencing domestic violence. Denying people access to mobility is nothing short of complicity in gendered violence, which is systemic in our society.

–  people trying to move from shelters into permanent homes.

people transitioning from prison into society.  Without the ability to pay first and last month’s rent, as is mandatory for renters, those who our government has imprisoned will be likely to be re-arrested for issues associated with houselessness such as failing to report to parole or probation officers, living without a fixed address, or being forced to steal food and clothes.

people leaving psychiatric units.  Someone on OW who is forcefully abducted and locked in a Psych Unit might not be allowed or able to submit their monthly report card to OW. Even though there are social workers employed by the hospital who ought to see to this, they never do – ever.  When OW reports aren’t submitted, a recipient is placed on suspension and can lose their coverage through OW.   Certainly in the case of an extended stay a consumer will have little to no financial supports.  Even if they are signed up before they are discharged they will not have enough to pay first and last month’s rent, let alone pay for food and transportation

(new) parents who need to move into a living situation that the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will not deem unsafe.

people dealing with unhealthy barriers to an adequate quality of life, such as bedbug infestations or mold.

people who cannot afford the rising cost of energy.

Currently, about 16,000 Ontarians rely on these benefits each month.

Municipalities across Ontario are very concerned about the loss of these two benefits, as well as the cap that the 2012 budget puts on discretionary health-related benefits.

We call on housing workers, community legal clinic caseworkers, and others who support people living in poverty on OW and ODSP to act to protect these programs, and to not merely express concern that these cuts will result in more hardship, more desperation, and in fact more homelessness among people on assistance.

On June 4th, seven First Nations communities from the North Shore of Lake Huron held a rally against these cuts held at Queen’s Park.  They have since protested in Sudbury as well.

OCAP is coordinating a province-wide response to these cuts.

Poverty Makes Us Sick is hosting an info night, including a core organizer with OCAP, on Tuesday July 11th at the Queen St. Commons Café in Kitchener from 7-9pm.

Action will follow.

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