Subsidized housing and social assistance aren't enough to get by in Toronto for many people.
Wallace Moore has been living in Toronto since 1980, and waited more than a decade for a subsidized housing unit. He receives income from Ontario Disability Support Program that leaves him well below the poverty line ($19,930 for one person), and visits the Allen Gardens food bank run by Daily Bread. He describes some of the difficulties of spreading less than $1,000 over an entire month, and what he’d like to see change.
A few years back, I used to come here every now and then, but I basically come just once a week now because I don’t have very much income. What do they consider the poverty level now? $27,000, something like that? [It’s $28,185 for a single parent with one child under six.] I’m way below that. I only get about $10,000 on ODSP. I try to scrape by, but usually by about the second week of the month, I’m running low.
There’s a lot of places [food banks, soup kitchens] to eat, but you never know what they got sometimes. I’d rather try to get my food and eat at home. Sometimes the food they cook will give you food poisoning.
This is basically the main food bank I come to, besides the one up at the Sally Ann. They just give you odds and ends, basically, just to help you through, but you don’t get no meat. You have to go get your own meat. It gets pretty expensive sometimes. I think hamburger, if you buy the good stuff, is about $2.99 a pound now. I usually buy it in Chinatown. It gets pretty expensive. Sometimes you can buy hot meat—people shoplift and then they sell it. You can buy it at half price.
What actually happens is, people will borrow money; they’ll borrow money and they’re still behind from last month. “It’s Christmas season, I’ll get it to you,” I’ll get you a month behind. I still owe about, maybe, $800 that I haven’t paid back, to a loan shark. He doesn’t charge very much, but he’s the only one I’ll deal with every now and then. But if I want to get money, I have to go borrow it, although it’ll cost you more then. I usually get by, but sometimes you run out. You don’t have any meat to put in for spaghetti, or something like that. Sometimes you have to collect beer cans.
I live on subsidized housing. I think I was on the list for about—I filled out the form in ’95, and I got mine in 2009. So it took all that time. I can’t handle the housing unit where I live. It’s not very well taken care of. A lot of drug activity going on, and I don’t do drugs. I drink beer, but I don’t do drugs like that. Stuff that causes all the problems in the streets, I don’t do that. But I live on George Street, and it’s bad sometimes.
Politicians should be putting more into housing. It’s a growing city. Fourth-largest city in North America. I think they should start building some more affordable units, instead of spending more money on high-class projects. Low-cost housing. There’s a lot of people in this city that don’t have housing. They’re hard to house, too. You’ve got to go through stages, what do they call it? Transitional housing.
OW [Ontario Works] pays $115 a month for subsidized rent.* My subsidized rent is $139 a month. They should jack it up a little, and then they’d have cash to fix this and that. I could probably afford about $200 a month, that’s about $60 extra. There’s 150 living in my building, so you add that up…But politicians don’t think like I do. They just want to get some money, and they want to divvy it all up on some fancy projects. They should stick to housing first.
*OW uses a rent scale based on a recipient’s non-benefit income, so this number is not the same for everyone.
This is the second interview in a series about the struggles of being a renter in the city. If you have a story to share, reach out to Tannara Yelland at firstname.lastname@example.org.