Ontario works payments not keeping up with inflation; more Six Nations people living in trailers

Six Nations Ontario Works says they’re noticing more and more community members living in trailers as inflation continues to climb yet social assistance payments remain stagnant.

A provincial think tank said OW payments are so low that recipients would still need to receive another $17,000 annually to meet the poverty line for a single person in Ontario.

And OW payments are not indexed to inflation.

In December 2023, 589 people on Six Nations were receiving assistance through Ontario Works (OW).

October had the lowest amount of Ontario Works users, at 544.

Indigenous Services Canada has since stepped in and offered an inflation payment to First Nations communities, with $300 for single people and $500 to families that was distributed last month.

Sandy Porter, OW director, said they’ve had an increase in clients since the declaration of the Covid pandemic almost four years ago and that, coupled with inflation and increased rental rates, is resulting in larger numbers of people living in tiny trailers as their means of shelter.

One of the major barriers preventing clients from obtaining full-time employment is the lack of transportation.

“A lot of our clients, they don’t have any vehicles. If you don’t have a vehicle, it’s very challenging to exit the social assistance system. Owning a vehicle is very expensive. That’s a fairly big challenge (to finding long-term employment).

Six Nations also has no public transportation for clients to get to and from work.

The annual budget for Six Nations OW program is about $2,000 per client. That funding covers everything from running the office, programming, OW payments, and random things like its laundry voucher program – which Sandy says they’re not sure they can afford to continue.

OW pays up to $1,300 a month for a single person.

“There’s a broad range of barriers when it comes to our clients. We service a very vulnerable population at times, sometimes multiple barriers.” 

He said their employment counsellors work to help clients become employable by assisting them in obtaining a driver’s license or GED – “anything that increases their level of employability.”

Singles make up the largest number of OW users on Six Nations.

Their annual budget is about $195,900.


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