Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia woman urges federal candidates to help hidden homeless

A Sackville woman on the brink of homelessness wants federal candidates to consider raising the disability benefit threshold this election.

Stephanie Kinsella, 53, hasn't been able to afford her own apartment for the last two years

Stephanie Kinsella is currently living with a friend in Sackville, but says her search for affordable housing on a disability income has pushed her to the edge. She fears she will end up living in her car this winter. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

A Sackville woman on the brink of homelessness wants federal candidates to consider raising the disability benefit threshold this election.

Fifty-three-year-old Stephanie Kinsella hasn't been able to afford her own apartment for the last two years since she was put off work for depression.

She says the $961 monthly income isn't enough to cover rent, food and medication.

"There's just so many issues that I'm stuck in, almost like a whirlwind tornado, and I just can't get out of it. I don't know where to get off. I don't know where to get services," she said.

Kinsella has been staying with a friend, but she doesn't see that has a long-term solution.

"Mentally and physically it's just not comfortable for anybody to have to be in this situation. I would like to get out of my friend's house, and I've applied for housing," Kinsella said.

Two-year wait list

She recently applied for affordable housing in Halifax, but was told it would be a two-year wait.

Dan Troke, President and CEO of Housing Nova Scotia, confirms there are about 1,000 people waiting for affordable housing in the Halifax region. He urges people like Kinsella to plead their case in person, rather than call the office.

"It's really important for them to spend a little bit of time explaining their circumstances with the housing authority. So not just call up and say 'What's the wait list look like?' or 'This is my income. How much would it be?' But take the time to fill out the application so we can have some of the nuances of the circumstance," Troke said.

He adds the Rent Supplement Program is another option. Housing Nova Scotia provides funding to private buildings to help offset the costs.

Kinsella says even if she spends 30 per cent of her income on housing, she won't be able to cover other basic expenses.

"Unfortunately my family, I mean yes, they're there for me but they can't financially support me. The government is pushing me to the street. I've been pushed so hard now and I've struggled for so long trying to get somewhere. I'm afraid that I've been pushed so far that I'm not going to be able to recover. I'm afraid that I'm going to lose it," she said.

Shelter not an option

Kinsella says she went to a women's shelter in Halifax, but was turned away after one night.

"As a matter of fact, I went to the shelter and the lady said 'Oh you make too much money' to live in the shelter," she said.

"She had to go and get special permission for me to stay there for that night cause the maximum you're allowed to have income wise is $650. And I'm getting $961, so I was not eligible to stay in the shelter. So she took a cot and put it in the boardroom for me to stay that night."

Gill Landry, a social worker at Adsum House, admits that a single woman on a disability income would in fact be turned away. It's her job to help women like Kinsella access the resources they need.

"We can connect them with programs to help them find housing whether that be Halifax Housing help, our housing support worker. We have housing ourselves; WISH does as well and the YWCA. However, we're in such high demand that it becomes difficult because there's less housing available than there is demand," she said. "What we can do is I can advocate to metro regional housing. That might not always be the option, but we can do that here."

Although Kinsella says she is tired of the constant runaround, she has been applying for jobs. People who receive the disability benefit can earn up to $5,100 before taxes each year.

She hopes by speaking out, the winning party this election will do more to help struggling Canadians.

"If they give us a livable wage so that we can live, then we wouldn't have to worry about these things," said Kinsella.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela MacIvor is CBC Nova Scotia's investigative reporter. She has been with CBC since 2006 as a reporter and producer in all three Maritime provinces. All news tips welcome. Send an email to cbcnsinvestigates@cbc.ca

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