'How will they eat?' Alarm raised over revamp of Ontario's welfare program for disabled - 2019-05-11
Homelessness, hospital, jail and — for some troubled souls — suicide. Those are the bleak outcomes people on social assistance fear as the provincial government plans to change Ontario's welfare program for the disabled. "I worry about people like me who become ill and won't qualify under the new rules," says Jordan Bond-Gorr, 38, who has HIV. "How will they eat? Pay rent? Heal?"
The former financial services worker is one of 86 Torontonians on social assistance surveyed about the Ford government's plan to narrow the definition of disability for new applicants to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). "The amount of fear and anxiety around this is very real," says Bond-Gorr, who spiralled into substance abuse and mental health problems about six years ago after his HIV diagnosis. He and others are worried the change will exclude people newly diagnosed with so-called "episodic" disabilities such as mental illness, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV, and some cancers — and force them to rely on Ontario Works (OW).
The increased income and medical support available through ODSP helped Bond-Gorr "take care of some serious mental health and physical health problems I was having. It helped me stabilize my life so that I was able to return to work part time and cover the cost of my medication." It also gave him access to supportive housing for people with a history of substance abuse.