What’s in it for me?: A volunteer on how basic income supports ‘decency and dignity’

To watch video, please visit: https://www.tvo.org/article/whats-in-it-for-me-a-volunteer-on-how-basic-income-supports-decency-and-dignity

By: Rhonda Castello – as told to Justin Chandler.

See original post here.

I’ve been living in Hamilton for about 25 years. I’m a Hamiltonian. I love Hamilton. But the cost of living has changed drastically over the past five or so years. Boom, boom, boom. It went right up — drastically. The housing prices keep skyrocketing.

I live downtown. I was planning to move last year or so, but the prices are ridiculous. I’ve been living in my apartment for about 16 years. I’m getting older. I’d like to maybe find somewhere quieter. But the prices are too much compared to the rent I’m paying for my apartment now. A move would double the price.

I was on the basic-income pilot program. That was excellent because at least I could manage my expenses. I was planning to go back to school to do something more. And, then, all of a sudden, it got cut off. I had been on it for only three months when it was disrupted.

People think basic income was free money or whatever. It wasn’t like that. For me, it wasn’t like that. I could have put it to my education to do something better with my life. In everybody’s case, it’s different. Some say people don’t want to work, and that’s not true. When I came to this country from the Grenadines, I was a personal-support worker. I worked for years. I didn’t know what social assistance was. I’ve never went on social assistance. An injury I got put me where I am today, and it hurts to hear people say, “They come here and want to sit down and get free money.” That’s not so. There are reasons people go through certain things and ask for help. I’m an independent person; I don’t like to depend on a handout.

I wish they could bring back basic income. That would be great. It would ease a little pressure. It wouldn’t solve the problem, but at least everybody would be able to get something out of it. Decency and dignity in human life, right? Without dignity, there’s a lot of depression. There are a lot of mental issues going on. Everybody’s getting sick. It’s affecting a lot of people. It’s not just poor people. And the pandemic makes it worse.

I just don’t trust politicians anymore. Look at Hamilton: you see a lot of poverty. Politicians don’t look at the real picture. The housing crisis is ridiculous. This is not one year. An election passed, and nothing has changed. An election is coming again. When a politician needs your vote, they will come and promise you glory. And they don’t do it.

To be honest with you, I don’t think politicians even think about dignity. If they cared much about the dignity of less fortunate people, wouldn’t they make it a priority to put everybody in a better situation?

All those big private owners are getting a big bump off poor people. The government needs to build more affordable housing and shouldn’t pass it on to the private sector. Address the housing crisis, and make rent more affordable, so people can live in dignity.

This story has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.

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