Welfare cheques don't pay the rent, say recipients

People on welfare are calling on the provincial government to boost welfare payments, saying the current levels aren't enough to afford rent in Alberta's booming economy.

People on welfare are calling on theprovincial government to boost welfare payments, saying the current levels aren't enough toafford rent inAlberta's booming economy.

Bonnie Jacobs's welfare cheque is $500 a month, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Edmonton is more than $650. She says she doesn't know how tofind a homeon so little.

"And I feel very naivebecause I don't know. This is the first time I've ever been homeless," she said.

Jacobs is one of nearly 100people who go to the Bissell Centre in Edmonton every month to get help with housing. The centre and Boyle Street Community Services offer a workshop to help the people having difficulty finding a place to live.

Stephanie Burlie, a housing worker with the centre, calls the current income support levels "very discouraging."

"These incomes are not enough and they don't meet the needs of families with inflation, the cost of living. It just doesn't equal out."

Mona Contois, whohas three small children, gets less than$1,000 a month from welfare and spends $700 of it on rent.

"I have to be late on the bills sometimes or (use) the food bank," she said.

And Contois says the government can afford to share some of its $7-billion surplus to help parents in her situation.

Employment Minister Iris Evans is looking at the current rates, but she won't say whether she'll be giving bigger welfare cheques in the next budget.

About 26,000 Albertans are on social assistance. A single person onwelfare looking for work gets about $400 a month; a family of five would get $1,126 from the province, plus federal child benefits.