Story from a program patron

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What I have to share today is based on a conversation that I had with a patron in need of specialized food assistance. When patrons are in need of specialized assistance intake staff try to collect specific details by reading through the food list with them to determine what type of accommodations we can make with the resources we have available.

She needs special items, like soft foods and meal replacements (ensure or boost) to help her maintain a reasonable level of nutrition following her upcoming surgery. This detail is just one of the many that she shared with me during our conversation; so with her permission, here are the some of the experiences she had to share:

This woman’s story begins when she was encouraged by Family and Children’s Services to take custody of her 16 year-old-niece. In the first few weeks of having custody of her niece, she would take unpaid time off work to help her out. Originally she didn’t think much of running a little thinner financially, if it meant that she’d be able to help her. However now that she’s unable to work, she’s looking forward to having her around to help manage her various health concerns.

The health problems that she is facing are potentially linked to a contamination that she experienced in a house she was renting. When she brought the situation to the attention of her landlord he seemed unwilling to comply. Therefore this resulted in a drawn out court battle. As a result she was forced to live in the contaminated conditions, since she lacked the resources to move, and is why she likely suffered from a stroke earlier this year.

One of the first repercussions to suffering a stroke for her is that she has lost the opportunity to hold a driver license. This news came at a distressful time as she was in the midst of scheduling multiple appointments, which are scattered throughout the region. This left her stranded at home and forced to find another (affordable) means of transportation.

Her stroke also resulted in her undergoing two surgeries. With the second one only days away she’s worried about how she’ll manage through her recovery. She’ll return home within two to three days and have a home care service provider for a week. However her recovery will likely take more than a month, so she’ll go without support unless she can pay for additional services.

“Just because you have the scars doesn’t mean anything…doesn’t mean anyone will be able to help with what you need whether it’s financial or home care services.”

While waiting for her upcoming surgery she filed an application for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Given her recent circumstances she believed that her income would be upgraded from Ontario Works. Unfortunately this is not the case, since her application was denied. This boils down to a choice: to live without the home care services that she desperately needs, since she lacks the financial resources to pay for additional services; OR to use some of the strength she has following her surgery to work with a community lawyer to appeal the rejection.

Using community lawyers is only one of the many resources that she knows are available to help her. She’s been a personal support worker for over 15 years so she’s familiar with what type of services are in the area and knows what the eligibility requirements are.

However it’s become challenging for her as she is consistently being told that she doesn’t qualify for many different services, or that she’s on a long waiting list. Nonetheless she continues to try to fight for what she knows she’s entitled to, in spite of growing wait lists and shrinking eligibility criteria.

Remarkably despite all the challenges and set backs she’s encountered she hopes that she’ll continue to find the strength to fight for what she needs. Then once she resolves her own issues she wants to use her experiences to empower someone else in the future. She wants to be one of the many voices fighting to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food, adequate and affordable housing, and any other services or resources  that they need to remain healthy, happy and satisfied.

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