Before I really get into the blog post for the week I want you to take a moment to think about something. I want you to think about your marriage or relationship. I want you to think about how you and your partner work together as a team. When it comes to finances, parenting, life stresses. You rely on one another to conquer life and all of it’s challenges. You love and trust in one another. That’s the idea behind relationships, right?
Just imagine, for a second, what your current situation may become if suddenly your partner was no longer an active participant in your life.
I don’t know about you but the thought of that quite literally scares the shit out of me.
Now I want to introduce you to K. Not only is she an example of how quickly poverty can creep into your life, she is also a brutally honest illustration of system failure.
She is a loving and patient mother of two beautiful children. One of those sweet kids has a diagnosis of Autism, which is why K made the decision to stay at home with him during the first stages of his life in an effort to tend to his needs and be available for intensive in home therapy over the years.
K’s situation was such that her partner was the breadwinner and she stayed home with the children.
Until her partner, without notice, walked out on her and very quickly married another woman. I don’t want to paint anyone here in a bad light, that is not at all my intention. But I do know upon arrival to her home for the first meeting with her, the home appeared very empty. Void of furniture, TVs, food. I hadn’t imagined prior to this that when people leave and take “half” of everything…. That they take half of the food from your cupboards.
K had limited recent employment history and no education to fall back on. SO, as a result of circumstances beyond her control, she turned to Social Development in the interim to provide for her children. She was living in a home with $1000 a month rent. Her children’s father agreed to pay half of that until the lease was up and therefore her assistance cheque was lowered as his contribution was considered “income”. As you can imagine, with less than average payments from assistance and no support being paid by her children’s father, she quickly started to fall behind.
Given that she was now expected to navigate a system in which she had never before been a part of, she became overwhelmed.
Bills piled up. Threats from landlords and power companies became a daily occurrence. With the everyday stresses of mothering two children, keeping her cupboards and fridge full, finding a new place to live in a few short months, exploring options for the future … she remained overwhelmed.
Then we received a phone call informing us that, in an act of desperation and absolute exhaustion, K had attempted suicide.
Following that child protection became involved. For a period of time she was not allowed to be alone and unsupervised with her children. She was advised that there was a real threat of her children being removed from her custody.
Let me tell you this. I KNOW that, prior to her suicide attempt, she reached out for help. She made numerous phone calls, which were rarely returned, to her Case Manager at social development asking for further assistance. She tried to reason with her ex. She waited for the legal system to enforce the law. She saw her family doctor and started taking anti-depressant medication to ease the emotional burdens of what she was going through. She took care of and fed her children to the best of her ability. She reached out to numerous organizations for help, including ours.
SHE did everything she was supposed to be doing. But I think you can probably guess who didn’t.
And I am left shaking my head. Now the “system” wants to act. Now they want to enforce policies and societal expectations by treating her as though she is a “threat” to her children. Now they’ll check in on those children numerous times a day, and ensure that she is fulfilling her parental duties according to whatever standard it is they adhere to.
So who is checking in on her? Who is showing up to care about her safety and well-being? When did she become the villain?
Poverty is the villain. And unfortunately, in the year 2016 in a country such as ours, we still lack adequate resources, departments and policies to defeat it.
And, instead, people like K are forced into situations in which THEY feel trapped, hopeless and defeated.
After all of this she moved into an apartment she can’t afford (as opposed to being homeless—those were her options), she feels like a failure as a mother, and still can’t manage to come up with enough money to send her child on a class field trip.
People need to be aware of situations like hers. I hope each one of you reading this realizes that it could easily be you or I. And that we need to advocate for policies and systems that apply to REAL LIFE situations, offering pathways OUT of poverty instead of perpetuating it.
Let’s stop keeping people poor.
We have some meetings coming up with parliamentary members and local representatives and we would love to hear from you. We plan to bring forward a multitude of issues including those identified in this blog post. If you have experiences or ideas you’d like expressed we encourage you to share them with us.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via our FB page.
To help people in our community like K.. Please consider making a donation via etransfer at the email listed above OR via our GoFund me page below.