Nova Scotia

Some homeless people denied post-Fiona support payment, advocates say

Housing support workers say a payment being offered to income assistance recipients in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona is being denied to some unhoused people.

Province says supports have been offered, and 'more customized approach' needed

Many houseless people lost everything they owned in the storm. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Housing support workers say a payment being offered to income assistance recipients in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona is being denied to some unhoused people.

Campbell McClintock, a street outreach worker with Out of the Cold, says he's been hearing from some unhoused people that they have been refused the one-time payment of $150.

"In my view, this is really problematic that folks who are very much still affected by the hurricane, folks living outside in tents with limited ability to keep their things safe, a lot of those folks had all their things destroyed by the storm, however they're not being offered any form of income supplement or compensation for that hardship," he said. "It just feels imbalanced and problematic."

The province announced the support payment last week as one of several programs intended to help people recover from losses incurred during the storm. The $150 payment was supposed to be offered to all households receiving income assistance, including disability support.

McClintock says he spoke with an income support worker and their supervisor to find out why some people were denied.

"The explanation was that the 150 amount is only applicable to folks who have power, folks who have a house, folks who have a refrigerator to put food into and it was not applicable to houseless folks."

Campbell McClintock is a street outreach worker who spent the weekend Fiona hit checking on people sleeping rough in the storm. (David Laughlin/CBC)

McClintock said he has heard from some unhoused people who did receive the payment, and others who didn't, so "it seems to be that there's some inconsistency."

Joanne Hussey, a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid, says she's also been hearing from housing outreach workers that people living in shelters, tents and hotels have been denied.

"I think it just reiterates the fact that government really isn't there for them," Hussey said. "If they're being housed in a hotel room because governments over many years have not adequately provided for affordable housing, to be told well also you don't get any compensation for these losses you've suffered, just seems to suggest that the government really doesn't care."

Hussey said some unhoused people seeking emergency shelter had to leave their belongings outdoors before Fiona arrived, and lost some items.

"A $150 one-time payment is really the bare minimum that we can do to support people who have really been let down by levels of government in many ways already," she said.

Other supports are being offered, says province

Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of the Department of Community Services, told the standing committee on community services at the legislature Tuesday that some are receiving "much more" than $150.

"Any items that they have lost have all been replaced. They are being provided with food gift cards, they're being provided with whatever they need to reestablish themselves with the appropriate level of support. While they're not in receipt of the $150, they are, in fact, in receipt of exactly what it is that they need."

A spokesperson for the Department of Community Services told CBC Nova Scotia in an emailed statement Monday that the $150 was intended to help replace food that may have spoiled during power outages and to meet other basic needs.

'More customized approach' required

Christina Deveau said a "more customized approach" was required to meet the needs of people living in hospitals, rehab, hotels and shelters, as well as those who are unsheltered.

"Across the province, shelter staff and outreach workers have been working with unsheltered individuals to replace lost or damaged belongings, provide gift cards for food replacement, and offer additional supports as needed."

About $100,000 was provided to shelters in the hardest-hit areas to help replace peoples' belongings and provide alternative housing options.

Deveau said the Halifax Regional Municipality also worked with service providers after the storm to deliver gift cards, new tents, sleeping bags, and mattresses to known encampments.

People who are unhoused can be eligible for an "essentials allowance" from the province, which amounts to $380 per month, Deveau said. About 400 people in the province receive the allowance, or 1.6 per cent of income assistance recipients.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at frances.willick@cbc.ca

With a file from Jean Laroche

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