TORONTO – A single mother will be evicted from her home at the end of the month unless the City reverses its decision to cut off her social assistance benefits.
Bsra Nor’s payments were stopped at the beginning of April after Social Services told her the week before that she no longer qualified for Ontario Works because she is married, even though her situation had remained unchanged since she started receiving benefits almost a year ago.
“I told them from the beginning that I’m married and at my six month interview when I went to update everything was okay,” said Nor. “My husband is not supporting me financially, but now social services wants my husband to come in and sign documents saying that we’re a family.”
Nor was married in Toronto but her husband resides in the United States, where he is still applying for sponsorship to live in Canada.
She said that once the sponsorship process has begun it is illegal to try and enter the country. But without his presence, Nor has been told she can’t continue to receive social assistance.
In the meantime, Nor’s landlord has told her that if she doesn’t pay April’s rent before the end of the month she has to vacate her unit.
“He’s been nice to me for waiting for the last month,” she said. “I don’t know where to go.”
Nor’s mother, who sponsored her eight years ago when she first came to Canada, has a small home and six children living with her. So there’s no room for Nor and her 10-month-old baby boy.
If she were single, Nor said she would couch surf until she can find something permanent. “But since I have a kid I cannot do that,” said the 21-year-old.
Nor asked Social Services to extend her benefits for at least three months to give her time to work things out.
“But they wouldn’t listen to that suggestion,” she said. “They gave me less than a week’s notice.”
A dozen supporters came to City Hall Wednesday to defend Nor and demand her benefits be reinstated immediately.
“It’s a particularly egregious example of something that happens all the time,” said John Clarke, an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
“Some times it’s something like wanting a letter from a landlord that the landlord won’t write.”
OCAP has been to North York West Social Services on two occasions, directly contacted the Client Services and Information Unit offices and brought the matter to the attention of Ward 31 Councillor Janet Davis, the Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee.
So far, they’ve had no response.
“We have a regime in social assistance that looks for ways to deny people things, so you never know if the next cheque is going to arrive” said Clarke. “This is just the latest idea they’ve cooked up.”
A small delegation went up to Mayor Miller’s office where they met with Constituency Liaison Karen Duffy, who assured them that her office would contact the manager at North York West Social Services.
“We should know by the end of the day what decision they’re going to make on this case,” said Clarke.