Ottawa police are concerned a big boost to money provided to homeless people living in shelters may lead to binge spending and possible criminal activity.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, Ontario has dropped a $28 dollar per week allowance — called the Personal Needs Allowance — in favour of a larger, once-a-month allotment of $230.
The change comes as operating funding for homeless shelters moved from Ontario Works to the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
In the old system, people receiving money from Ontario Works who lived in a shelter where meals were provided were eligible for the Personal Needs Allowance.
Different municipalities had different methods of distributing the money, but often shelters would pay the money out in cash each week to people who had resided in the shelter all week.
Change 'creates consistency' says ministry
Now homeless recipients get more than double the amount and once a month, through what the government calls the Basic Needs Allowance.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Community and Social Services said the change "creates consistency" for how all clients receive assistance.
Ottawa Police Staff Sgt Kal Ghadban said the change is concerning, and that he saw the trouble of lump-sum payments in the old days of welfare.
"They would live like kings and queen's for a week, and then wouldn't have two nickels to rub together for three weeks," said Ghadban.
"By the third and fourth week, we'd start seeing our break-ins and thefts from vehicles going up again," he said.
Most shelter occupants welcome money
Many people staying at the Salvation Army shelter in Ottawa welcomed the move.
"Well, I think 230 is a lot better than 112," said John, who said he welcomes more money. He said he's not worried about people blowing their winfall on drugs and alcohol, since he said that happened under the old system anyway.
"You get a couple packs of smokes or a pack of smokes, you get your narcotic or alcohol of choice and it's all gone, within, like, two hours," he said.
Jean-Guy Lamothe, an older man staying at the shelter, disagrees, and believes the new lump-sum will cause problems.
"When you got $28 you don't have much to go party. When you got 200, that's a bit different," said Lamothe.
"But I know a lot of people that are addicted to drugs. They're going to use for it that, for sure. It's a lot of money," he said.