On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council organized a free lunch at the Balmoral Hotel for Balmoral and Regent Hotel residents. Jagrup Brar, the MLA from Surrey who has accepted the welfare challenge was there. A few of us went around to the tables where people were eating and asked people why they thought welfare rates should be raised. These are what they said:
• Wouldn’t have to stand in food lines.
• Could get a fridge and hotplate and have more food and security.
• Wouldn’t have to do risky things to survive.
• Could live in a healthier space.
• Could get out of DTES. I want to live in a quiet residential area.
• Price of clothing is going up and the rates are not.
• Transportation. I have to walk everywhere.
• I can’t afford Tylenol.
• I can’t afford to eat with my medication.
• Self worth and confidence “so you don’t feel like a schumck all day”.
• self reliance.
• Food ran out. The cheque doesn’t take you all the way through the month.
• $200 (for support) This is the 21st century; people are starving here in North America. Ridiculous.
• Can’t live off it; food’s too expensive.
• We have no shower, no washroom, you have to share with everyone on the floor; you want to quit drugs or alcohol, you can’t in this condition.
• You run out of money in a week or 2; I pay $450 for rent.
• Cause everything costs money.
• So I would have to share a bathroom that has crap on the floor and shower and toilets that are always backed up.
• People need nutritious food.
• It would help avoid crises.
• I could afford furniture.
• Its hard to live and eat properly.
• A lot of diseases require better quality food.
• Its hard to pay the rent.
• Can’t get enough food.
• Can’t buy clothes or anything.
• No personal life as a result ( of low welfare rates).
• Can’t travel to see family (mother is sick in Kelowna).
• The rats are about this (gestures a distance of about 1 foot) long.
Over the last 2 weeks, we asked this same question to other gatherings of DTES residents and in some cases asked them to prioritize the top 10 reasons for raising welfare. So far the top 2 reasons to raise welfare are:
1) we wouldn’t have to rely on food banks and lines
2) so families won’t have children apprehended