Okay, so this topic came up in the last post, and I thought what the hell if I’m writing the story of my life can’t do it without mentioning this.
I have in fact collected welfare a few time in life.
I’ve also collected U.I. and E.I. a few times in life as well.
The first time that I collected welfare was in Edmonton, AB. I forget the exact dates and my tax records aren’t exactly clear, but I was on welfare from around September of 1991 until February of 1992.
The thing I remember the most about applying is (a) how fucking humiliating it was, and (b) because I had been born in Nova Scotia, Alberta was willing to buy me a plane ticket “back home”. I say “back home” as I hadn’t lived in Nova Scotia since I was 5 years old.
Why didn’t I call my father for money? There is no fucking way on Earth I would have ever called him asking for money. You just learnt as a kid to never ask him for money. You just didn’t. Most times he’d just answer that he was “broke” and didn’t have money, but if you could wait for a month he might have some money then. And this would be for amounts like $20. So asking him for $300 to cover rent for the month would have been out of the question.
Marie didn’t have much money, but she did help me out with groceries a couple of times.
Edmonton was a hell hole in the early ’90s. It was in the midst of a recession. I tried delivering Pizza, but that was super risky walking into some parts of town with money in your pocket. I did “dial-a-bottle” delivery for a while. Same risk as the pizza though, but this time not only could they steal your money, they’d steal the booze too. I worked at a car wash. Nothing better than working in a car wash in Edmonton in the winter.
I moved to Vancouver in February of 1992. The job I had come down for ended up getting moved back by a couple of months because the two mechanics that were supposed to be leaving Lions Gate Lanes stayed for longer as they were having issues getting their venture going.
I applied for welfare in BC. Only thing is at the time unless you lived in BC for sixth months you couldn’t get welfare. I was given two options. A free bus ticket back to Edmonton or I could go stay at Catholic Charities Hostel for Men on the periphery of the infamous Downtown East Side. I chose the men’s hostel.
At the hostel you got a couple of meal vouchers. One for breakfast, and one for lunch. I would use the breakfast voucher and trade the lunch voucher for singles. Singles were single cigarettes.
I started smoking around age 13. My younger brother was smoking before I was. Richard didn’t care. By the time I was 18 I was up to two packs a day. By the time I hit Vancouver in ’92 I was still at two packs a day. Singles weren’t enough. So I ended up picking up butts out of ashtrays and using the unburnt tobacco to roll smokes in rolling papers. I was able to find piecemeal work, but I was only allowed to stay at Catholic Charities for 6 weeks. After six weeks you had to get out and find smoother place to stay.
Luckily the job at Lions Gate finally opened up.
I worked at Lions Gate from June of 1992 until June of 1993. The reason why the two previous mechanics left was that the owner of the shopping mall was not going to renew the lease for Lions Gate Lanes and Brunswick was shutting the centre down at the end of the ’92 – ’93 league season. I stayed on with Brunswick for the dismantling of the centre. I then got hired on by Larco to help build the new centre. When Larco cancelled the lease for Lions Gate Lanes, they thought that they would simply walk in and operate the centre for a couple of years until the redevelopment happened. The only problem with that is Brunswick had years of experience repossessing bankrupt bowling centres. We had Lions Gate Lanes stripped to the bare walls in 12 days.
This left Larco in a lurch as they had promised the leagues that there would be bowling for the ’93 – ’94 bowling season. But Lions Gate Lanes was an empty shell.
Warren Flanagan with Brunswick Corp said that there was a job waiting for me in Mississauga if I wanted it.
Phil had been hired on by Larco to oversee the construction of the centre. Phil called me and asked me if I wanted to help build the new centre. I said sure. Larco hired a company from the states to supply lanes, pinsetters, scoring equipment, and the rest of the capital equipment. It took about six week, but we built that 36 lane centre. The only problem was the pinsetters were a mishmash of used American and Japanese Brunswick machines. Some of them even came from a flood damaged centre in the states and were super rusted. The electrics were iffy on the machines and not a single one of them had been overhauled.
The bowlers were rightfully pissed off. The lanes weren’t ready for the start of the season. In fact, the lanes weren’t ready until about 2 weeks later. But the pinsetters were in such rough condition that they were having jams and blackouts non-stop.
One of the machines couldn’t detect standing pins. And this was the lane that the League President was bowling on. He told Phil that if the machine screwed up once while he was bowling on it he was taking the entire league and they’d move to a different centre. Phil begged me to keep it running. I tried to keep it going without having it shut down or sweep standing pins. Unfortunately I got my arm crushed in the machine.
After I got my arm free of the machine I stumbled my way up to the front and I asked Phil for a ride to the hospital. He told me to take the bus. I quit then and there. The next morning I called Warren and asked him if the job was still open in Ontario.
Because I had opened an U.I. claim when Lions Gate Lanes closed and we were all laid off, my claim was still open. When I went to the U.I. office a couple of days later I explained what had happened. They considered that I had already been through the waiting period and therefore they would get my payments underway right away.
With my final cheque from Park Royal Lanes and my U.I. cheque, and my savings I moved to Toronto in late November of ’93.
The job waiting for me was at Brunswick Mississauga lanes. I went in and met the manager. The manager said that he had heard excellent things about my from both Warren and my previous centre manager Wendy. I can’t remember the manager’s name, but I can remember the head mechanic’s name. Don W. The manager got on the intercom and called to the back. As soon as Don emerged from the walkway I could tell this wasn’t going to work. “I told you, no one from the fucking West Coast is going to tell me who the fuck I have to hire”. Don and the manager went into the office and had a yelling match. Don emerged and look at me and said “get your stuff, we’re going to the back, and don’t get comfortable because the first time you fuck up I sending you out the fucking door.” I lasted at Mississauga lanes for about three weeks. U.I. reviewed my termination and determined that it wasn’t justified. As my claim was in British Columbia they’d have to transfer the paperwork over. In the meantime I was now collecting welfare in Ontario. Once the U.I. office got the paperwork sent out it was a few weeks for the the processing to take place. Once that was done I was back on U.I. again.
To keep rent down as low as possible I had been staying at the Salvation Army down by Moss Park.
Toronto wasn’t great at the time. Job interviews weren’t leading to job offers. So I ended up heading back to Vancouver. The only thing I hadn’t counted on was the 6 weeks that it was going to take to change my mailing address. They would also have to re-evaluate my claim as I had moved to a different claims jurisdiction. And of course, they’d have to transfer my paperwork back to British Columbia.
So I ended up receiving emergency welfare from the BC Government. No wait period this time, but it would be clawed back from my U.I. cheques when they started showing up.
Why didn’t I call Richard and ask Richard for money? Not worth it. Not worth the humiliation. Not worth the degradation.
I ended up getting a room at the Salvation Army Dunsmuir House for Men. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was wrong with this place. Someone broke into my room and stole my knapsack and when I called the VPD the Sgt. responding laughed at me when I said I wanted to file a report.
Most of the men in this place were angry. And I mean really angry. Fights would start over the slightest issue.
In 2011 I would learn that the Salvation Army Dunsmuir House for Men was a Federal half-way house and housed men who had just been released from prison. At the time when I moved into the Dunsmuir I just needed a cheap room. No one ever told me that this place also housed freshly released prisoners.
I’ll save this for another post, but my return to Vancouver was when I tried to work up the courage to jump off the Lions Gate Bridge. Instead of working up the courage to jump off the bridge, I worked up a case of pneumonia.
I ended up getting work at a small bowling centre in East Richmond around the end of June. I was there until 1999 when I got into commercial property management. And as they say the rest is history.
So yeah, the first part of my 20s was very, very rough.
Which is why when I read Richard’s statement that he gave to the CFNIS 2011, I choked. He made it sound as if I kept calling him non-stop for money and that he had been giving me money whenever I asked for it.
Did the CFNIS suggest to Richard what he should say?
Was Richard really so keen to play the victim that he said what he said?
Was Richard just vengeful?
This will always be one of life’s little mysteries because Richard is dead.
Yes, I’ve collected welfare. And yes I’ve collected U.I. / E.I..
But I’ve spent less that two years of my adult life collecting welfare / U.I. / E.I.
Another way of looking at this is I’m 50. My first welfare claim was when I was 19.
I’ve been working since I was 16.
2 years out of 34 years is 0.058%.
I’ve spent less than 0.058% of my adult working life collecting welfare / U.I. / E.I.