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Poverty is Soul Crushing

Black and white image of a hand behind torn paper and fencing.

I have seen what poverty can do, but what I didn't know is how it feels. Now I know. From missed meals because you have no food, to long walks because you can't afford the bus...to your friends not reaching out to you because poverty is contagious I guess. The soul needs purpose and poverty crushes that soul. That is why the people at Ontario Works are so important. While you may not have the strength or purpose to move forward, you can ride on their coat tails just a little bit to find your way.

In the summer of 2016, I was transitioning from one employer to another when I developed an illness that caused changes in my personality, anxiety and eventually depression. Unfortunately I did not have any benefits at the time and my new employer was none too keen to accommodate these health issues. I found myself, over the next 12 months, using all the resources I could muster to keep myself going, but eventually even these funds ran out. It was with great unease that I went to the Ontario Works office hoping they could help. When I entered the first floor I was immediately overwhelmed. What was I going to ask for? Who do I talk to? Will they judge me? Oh my god I just wanted to run out of there and hide under my covers. But...then this pleasant woman, who seemed to sense my impending melt down, came out from behind the counter and gently moved me to a quiet area and said the most amazing thing.

"It will be alright...how can I help you?"

I poured out my story in stops and starts and she patiently listened until I felt like she understood. She helped me make the first contact with an intake person and then fully explained what I needed to know at that time. Even more importantly she gave me her name and said,

"I work in this department and if you ever need to ask a question or need some direction I or my friends here can help you," as she smiles and points out her colleagues.

Over the next three weeks I was given some emergency money, assistance with securing food, help with banking and most of all; hope! During the next two months, I used the services daily of the computer lab and the enthusiastic and caring staff to begin my job search. Whenever I had a good lead they smiled and encouraged me. Their ability to help me focus on my resume is why I am now back to my previous profession in a wonderful community. I know, not unlike most social service based organizations, you can get discouraged. It seems like the challenges are too big or the problems have no solutions, but please know what you do matters. I would not be in the place I am today without you. That is how I know! So to all the people who picked me up, kept me steady and smiled when I walked into the room...I will carry you in heart and mind forever.