Dying woman with cancer can't afford to live on disability payments 0
Gillian Patrick is in stage four of her cancer but can hardly afford to live with her Ontario Disability Support Program payments.
A Collingwood woman in her final stages of battling cancer is scraping by on Ontario Disability Support payments.
“This is dying disgracefully,” said Gillian Patrick who is suffering from stage four cancer, which started in her lymphoid and spread to her brain.
The ODSP program is designed to help people with disabilities pay for living expenses like food and housing.
The maximum income support for a single ODSP recipient is $1,064 — $590 allotted for basic needs, and $474 for shelter costs.
Because Patrick is terminally ill she qualifies to receive an extra $200 a month for food.
Patrick pays nearly double what the government gives her for rent on a one-bedroom apartment — $895 a month.
“I couldn't find anything I could afford,” said Patrick. “Whether you starve to death or not, now I have only $300 to live on.”
“I'll be a few days here that I don't eat, because there's nothing to eat.”
Gail Michalenko, executive director for Housing Resource Centre, says not even rooms are available for $474 a month and the ones that are available are not desirable.
“They're spending money that should go towards their food and any other costs they have,” she said.
Michalenko says support programs and low-incoming housing exist, but have long wait lists attached to them.
“The same circumstances exist with every community in Ontario as far as availability for that lower rent,” she said. “It's really heart-breaking when someone is having health problems that they have to deal with this on top of everything.”
Most of Patrick's medication is paid for under ODSP, but it doesn't take into account over-the-counter drugs that are needed to treat the side-effects from strong cancer medication.
“You can't afford the drugs, so you suffer,” she said.
Patrick also can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables, or even bus fare.
“There's no reason for people in Canada to be living like this,” she said.
Patrick is hoping to change the way ODSP is given out so that people in her situation are able to live decently.
“I might not see any change on my cheque, but at least I could get something started,” she said.
Patrick worked full-time as a hairstylist until an accident more than 15 years ago forced her off her feet. She went back to work part-time while on disability.
“Being on disability I was allowed to make a little extra money to live decently,” she said.
She was forced to quit hairdressing when her right hand went numb because of the brain tumour.
“It didn't take a year, not even six months, and I ended up in a shelter.”
She found an apartment in Collingwood, but the landlord asked her to leave when they found out she had cancer, saying she should be with family or in a home.
She took the apartment she is living in now, despite the high rent, so she wouldn't end up back at the shelter.
Patrick was diagnosed in November. She is currently in her second round of chemotherapy.
“They gave me nine months,” she said through tears. “I don't know whether to believe it or not. We'll see what happens.”