rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Move some welfare recipients onto disability supports, says group

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

If individuals with significant cognitive and mental health impairments were moved from welfare to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), the city of Toronto could save over $100 million per year, according to a local advocacy group.

As Mayor Ford and the city administration looks for ways to save money, the City Service Review Group has been doing some work over the last year looking at where people go who are homeless or coming out of correctional facilities.

"We're proposing an alternative to that current pathway," said Victor Willis, Executive Director, Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre.

City Service Review Group believes at least 30 per cent of the city's welfare recipients, described as "high needs" and "hard to serve" and who have been on welfare for 10 years or more, should be on ODSP.

"My clients average 7 years homelessness before we meet them which means they've been warehoused in Seaton House and all the other shelters which are essentially horrible barracks," said Sarah Shartal, a lawyer with Roach, Schwartz & Associates.

A single ODSP recipient receives $1053 per month, making it possible to rent a private sector housing unit while the cost per night in a shelter is $73.23 per night or almost $2200 per month.

A single person on welfare receives only $592 per month.

"So for the individuals we see who are on welfare, the options for them in terms of housing are severely limited," said Harvey Stein, Manager of Homelessness and Housing Help Services at Woodgreen.

And there is no emergency housing in Toronto. People who don't have a place to live have two options: shelters or rooming houses. A "decent" rooming house rents for around $430 per month, leaving someone with only $5.50 per day for food, transportation and other personal items.

Given a choice, most prefer the streets.

But a person receiving ODSP could rent an affordable housing unit and have more money left over for other expenses.

Stable housing, said the group, improves the lives and health of individuals with severe disabilities and makes it easier for them to remain stable. The more stable people are the less likely they are to get into conflict with others or the police.

"I hope that we all remember the moral responsibility and the moral savings that we have with the folks we're talking about," said Greg Rogers, Executive Director, John Howard Society of Toronto.

"Homeless folks aren't gravy."

City Service Review Group proposed that the city expand its Homeless to ODSP Project Engagement (HOPE) to individuals who are living in shelters or rooming houses. Right now, HOPE workers cannot help people with disabilities that are living in shelters to apply for ODSP.

They also want the city to expand the Streets to Homes Program to include people living in shelters. People who sleep in shelters are currently deemed to be "housed" and therefore ineligible for assistance through Streets to Homes.

The cost savings and health improvements associated with moving people from welfare to ODSP cannot be kept up without long-term community supports, warned the group. This means they'll need continuing access to social workers who will be there to provide daily support and crisis resolution.

The group estimated that the city would need to reinvest approximately $32 million for additional case managers and supports in existing outreach programs.

"If somebody is on welfare for over a year this is not because they're between jobs," said Willis.

"This person needs a safety net so we can address some of the other issues that they've been confronting throughout their life."

But it's still not enough. ODSP only gives a person 60 per cent of the low income cutoff. And yet that's much better than welfare which was only meant to be a short-term gap between jobs.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.