Whenever the discussion of the struggles people on ODSP deal with come up, there is always this underlying idea that the people in charge of making the decisions don’t know exactly how bad the situation is.
While there is some truth to that, in that they don’t understand on an emotional – have lived through it – level of what it’s like, the truth of the matter is that it’s not unknown to them as we might like to pretend. That thought hit me this month when I received my January Check a week early, just before Christmas.
It happens every year at this time. Whereas normally we receive our money on the last business day of the month, in December, we receive it the last business day before Christmas.
Why is this? Is it because there are not enough business days between the bank holidays involved in the end of this particular month? No.
It’s because at some point, legislators decided that since ODSP recipients often don’t have enough money by the end of the month to buy groceries or to be able to pick up any type of holiday gift or what-nots, that by sending the money a week early, they get to participate in the holidays.
On the surface it seems like a nice idea, giving the poor disabled relative a chance to either have a holiday chicken by themselves, or be able to bring some token gifts to exchange at the family party, and everyone gets to feel a little less guilty.
The problem is that the reality is quite different. See this Holiday Gift doesn’t come with any extra holiday money or anything. IT’s the exact same amount that we get every month. Which would be fine, except that instead of lasting the usual 30 days, this money now has to last an extra week. Which means the amount we have to live on is actually being stretched even thinner.
That in itself is bad enough, but pair it with the realization that the very existence of this week early “treat” is because legislators were aware that a week before the end of the month – MOST ODSP recipients can’t afford groceries.
They know it’s not enough to live on. They know that we spend the last several days of the month so strapped for cash that we cannot buy ourselves food. Not only do they know all that and are ok enough with it to not do anything about it, but their solution to us being sad over the holidays is to take that not enough amount and make it have to last longer. To make it so that come January, it’s two weeks or more that we can’t afford to buy groceries or meet any other emergency need that might come up.
There is this harsh reality that’s coming home to me more and more. It’s a reality that’s become enough of a problem that disaster relief organizations have started issuing releases asking people to only send specific things. The problem is this: At some point helping people stopped being about our obligation to one another as human beings, it became an act of charity, something done as a favour rather than because it was the right thing to do. It became not about giving people what is needed but about them being grateful for whatever you give them. Regardless of whether it would kill them.
It’s not really about helping us have holidays. It’s really just about not having to witness us struggling when they’re trying to be happy. Better we starve when no one’s looking.