Moose Jaw Food Bank’s SAID clients being evicted for rent arrears: Fisher

Cheantelle Fisher of the Moose Jaw and District Food Bank is seeing the food bank’s clients on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID) program evicted from their homes for rent arrears.
Expenses can be large for people on disabilities, said Fisher, who runs the Syngage program at the food bank that helps connect their long-term clients with government services like social housing.
Fisher said what her clients are getting in benefits from SAID isn’t enough.
“When you apply for SAID, your worker will sponsor you for a pharmacare program to lessen your expenses,” Fisher said. “And sometimes it doesn’t happen right away. For one client, she’s been waiting for three months. Her medication is $800 per month.”
Because of the enormous expenses some of the SAID clients have, they’re finding it more difficult to make ends meet.
“We just had several meetings (Tuesday) with the tenancy board for them and they are being evicted, and for each person it is rent arrears,” she said.
To help, Fisher recommends social services workers need trauma training.
“They need training on how to engage with folks who have experienced or are experiencing trauma,” she said. “The folks that they’re dealing with are (experiencing trauma). If they are living with a disability, they are living with trauma. The fact that they have to reach out to these programs is, in and of itself, a trauma. So being able to interact with folks and not re-traumatize them is very important.”
Fisher said every time they have to phone or email is a traumatic experience.
The SAID program benefits need to be increased significantly and immediately and also, she wants bring back the program that allows rent and utilities to be paid for clients without putting clients in trusteeship.
“We’ve heard a lot of stories of folks being told they were being put back in this program and were in fact, being put in this program without their knowledge,” Fisher said. “There are folks that don’t need to be in trusteeship but do need that help making sure their rent and their bills are paid. So transparency of whether they are being put into trusteeship is vital, and ultimately making sure that folks can have their rent and bills paid properly without being put into trusteeship without their knowledge.”
The benefits are a key.
“What I see coming out of this, is if benefits aren’t increased, my clients will starve to death,” she said. “And they will starve to death at the hands of a provincial program that was designed to replace an income and not be a last resort scenario. There is no first resort.”

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