End of benefit troubles those living in poverty
Community Start-Up Benefit helps pay for things like moving costs, new furniture or dealing with bedbug infestations
A frontline worker on a northern Ontario First Nation says the end of the provincial Community Start-Up Benefit will disproportionately affect people living on reserves.
People on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program can apply for up to $799 once every two years to pay for things like moving costs, bedbug infestations, and new furniture.
It can also help people find or maintain housing.
The benefit will end in January 2013 after it was cut in the last provincial budget.
A social assistance case worker on the Batchewana First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie estimated 90 per cent of the people living on the First Nation are on Ontario Works, meaning that they're also able to access the benefit program.
"It's making our jobs really hard because we're the front line workers," Charlotte Zack said.
"We're the ones who have to tell the clients, 'no we can't help you' because of the cuts the government is making."
Zack was among more than 100 people who attended an anti-poverty town hall meeting in Sudbury Wednesday night.
The main topic of discussion was the loss of the provincial benefit.
Other circumstances under which people are eligible for the fund include if their utilities are about to be cut off or if they're leaving an institution that provides for their basic needs and shelter.
'It's not fair'
Brian Arnelien said benefit helped change his life.
"It's helped me get a place, it's helped me get a degree, I got a whole bunch of support," he said.
"If I need another place to live, where am I going to get that type of money? It's not fair."
A spokesperson with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty said his group will be organizing events across the province to encourage people to apply for the community start up benefit while they still can.
"One of the things that we're looking to do is maximize access to this benefit right now," John Clarke said.
"So we're looking to create a situation where the people who are actually affected by this and their allies stand up and say 'this is intolerable' and challenge the government."
For its part, the provincial government said the fund will be replaced by a new housing and homelessness program that will use half of the funding from the old community start up benefit.