Let me begin by thanking the many people who checked out my blog postings last week. The number of site and page visits far exceeded any of my previous posts, and spoke volumes about our city and its concern for this issue. I also received a number of comments from readers, including one that I have decided to reprint below (with permission) as part of today’s post.
I’m 29 years old, and I am an addict. Not to drugs, but to alcohol and nicotine.
My income is about $1,300 per month. Rent, internet, phone, hydro take up about $1,000, even in low income housing.
Ten years ago, I met the criteria for CPP disability, which states my disability is “severe, prolonged, and likely to result in premature death.” I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder,” among other things.
I do what I can to keep costs down, but it’s still impossible to make ends meet. Yes, I should not drink or smoke cigarettes, but they are the only comfort I have, besides a small house pet.
Being desperate, living without furniture, lack of meaningful relationships, and isolation take a huge toll on me.
I no longer take blood pressure lowering medication, diabetes medication, or cholesterol lowering medication. I’m not interested in prolonging my own life, because living like this is too much to take. I’m ready to go. I do not fear death. The notion of prolonging my own life is unbearable.
I was not an alcohol user prior to being on Ontario Disability. The fact is, the sense of despair, alienation, and hopelessness are so overwhelming, I turned to alcohol for relief.
I never thought I’d end up like this. Ten years ago, I was full of promise. Sadly, the burden of assault at a very young age eventually caught up with me. I’m ashamed, embarrassed and without family support. I’m doing the best I can, given the circumstances.
The reality is that incomes are too low. It’s not possible to escape the welfare/ODSP trap when there are no boots to pull up.
My story is not unique. There are thousands of Londoners living this way… my way. Putting the most vulnerable people in to poverty has dire consequences. It must stop, or more people, who do have something to contribute, will die very early deaths.
My reasons for posting this story are twofold. First, I found the day-to-day struggles of this first-person account frustrating and heart-wrenching, especially given the clarity and conviction with which it is written. Second, it helped broaden my own thinking about our Underground in its entirety, forcing me to re-consider the best means of helping this person and others overcome this seemingly endless cycle of helplessness, hopelessness and despair.
If, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, that the true measure of any society can be found in how its treats its most vulnerable members, then we as a city, have a moral and civic duty to do what we can to help our most disadvantaged find a path out of the darkness and into a healthy and rewarding life.
So I have decided to take a step back and over the next two weeks, revisit the data that I have collected thus far, and re-examine how I might contribute to resolving this gnawing societal challenge. As I wrote last week, this issue is not going to be an easy one to fix. However, I have to believe that there is a better way to working this problem, and with the generous assistance of some very smart, experienced people in this field, I am hoping to find it.
We owe it to our retailers, their patrons and employees
We owe it to our first responders, hospital, civic and social service staffs.
We owe it to our charities and volunteers.
We owe it to our taxpayers.
We owe it to our most vulnerable.
Back in two weeks with the size of our Underground and the size our current response.