Moving While on ODSP Now That Moving Allowance is Distributed by Municipalities

In May 2014 I got a phone call from Toronto Non-Profit Housing. They finally had a wheelchair accessible apartment. I’d been on the waiting list for 8 years!!

The thing is, it's expensive to move, especially to another city, and the Provincial Government has cut off the moving allowance (CSUMB) for people who are disabled and living on ODSP (the Ontario Disability Support Program). The money from, what used to be the Community Start-Up and Moving Benefit, was given to the Municipalities as a lump sum so they could distribute it as they see fit. Kingston chose to put the money primarily into Homelessness and Homelessness prevention.

Nevertheless, my ODSP worker told me to go to the Ontario Works (OW) office to apply for the fund. She explained that the ODSP and OW computer systems were linked so she would write a note of support because, in my case, it made economic sense. You see, ODSP has been paying a lot to cover the cost of my medical transportation to weekly appointments in Toronto for the last 2 years.

The OW application states the money to move is only available under these circumstances:
  1. If you are currently homeless and moving into housing (either permanent or transitional):
    New lease, intent to rent, or letter from manager / director of transitional home.

  2. If you are currently living In temporary or transitional housing and moving into long-term housing or moving to more affordable housing:
    New lease or intent to rent.

  3. If you are being discharged from an institution: Written confirmation of date of discharge from hospital, jail, mission, or residence and one of the following three items:
    1. New lease, intent to rent or receipt of paid rent.
    2. Confirmation of bed at emergency shelter.
    3. Letter from manager / director of transitional home.

  4. If you are at risk of homelessness: Verification to show risk (i.e. eviction notice, utility disconnection notice, copy of notice to vacate, police report, Children’s Aid Society (CAS) report, letter from a licensed healthcare practitioner, property standards) and one of the following three items:
    1. New lease, intent to rent or receipt of paid rent.
    2. Confirmation of bed at emergency shelter.
    3. Letter from manager / director of transitional home.

  5. If you require emergency heating fuel:
    Evidence from heating company that fuel will not be delivered without advanced payment.
I'm not homeless or at risk of it. I currently live in a nice subsidized apartment in Kingston. However the weekly commute is getting to be a bit much and, there's no doubt, it is costly to keep paying for my commute to Toronto to get health care. The OW employee, therefore, told me to fill out the application and get the two estimates for the cost of a Mover to Toronto. I did this.

Meanwhile I called my property manager to confirm how much notice I had to give for my current apartment in Kingston. When I told the property manager how many logistics I had to sort out before I could make the move to Toronto a reality, she recommended I delay giving the notice until the end of June even though the apartment in Toronto was available on August 1st. I then spoke to the property manager in Toronto and she recommended the same thing; that I delay signing the lease. Both property managers made these recommendations and said they would accommodate the waiting period so I wouldn't be trapped with no place to live if the logistics and financial end of things didn't work out.

Their recommendations made sense so I heeded their advice. I also decided I could live with paying the rent for the subsidized apartments in both Kingston and Toronto during the month of August so it would be less stressful trying to unpack everything alone and it would give me time to get the home care services lined up through CCAC (Community Care Access Centre). It would also allow me to continue working until the job contract expired.

Would you believe, after I got the two quotes for moving ($1,650 and $1,695), the worker at OW said I could not be approved without giving notice and signing the lease? Basically, by heeding the advice of the two property managers, I theoretically didn't meet the critieria of being at risk of homelessness!

I was shocked. I said to the worker, "you mean to tell me that because I was responsible and took steps to make sure I wouldn’t go homeless, you’re going to penalize me by denying the moving allowance ?" I then explained how I’d talked to both property managers. Thankfully she listened. She then said, "okay, you must give your notice in Kingston immediately." I did so and, for good measure, in the notice letter I made reference to the conversation I'd had with my property managers back in May. I thanked them for cautioning me against giving notice too soon (so I wouldn't become homeless), and told them I finally had the logistics worked out. I figured by doing this, my story could be substantiated if the OW office decided they wanted to check up on me. I also explained in the notice letter that I'd be basically living in both Toronto and Kingston until the end of August.

I'm thankful the cost of the movers will be covered, but it will still be hard to manage the cost of hook-ups for the mandatory hydro and telephone and the double rent.

Thankfully I have very little debt so I can pay for the hookups with a credit card and then pay it back later. By moving I discovered surprisingly enough, that I'll be saving $80 per month on public transit and almost $40 per month on the landline telephone. With the part-time job in Kingston, which has now been extended until the end of September, I will more easily be able to pay off the bills. To cover the costs of a daily commute to Kingston in September to work, I'll be paying for the train with Via Rail Preference Points. The only hard part will be getting up early enough to catch the 6:40 am train from Toronto to Kingston each Monday, and then back later that day, until the end of the month.

The educational piece that I'd like readers to take away from this Blog, is to have them recognize that there is a problem with creating a policy that focuses only on one thing; homelessness, for a disabled person who used to be able to get financial coverage to move to a better location, from the ODSP Community Start-Up and Moving Benefit.

The criteria are tight enough in the municipally that, without careful thought, it could well put a disabled person inadvertently at risk of becoming homeless. A little more flexibility that could accommodate for the extenuating circumstances, such as I describe here because, by covering the costs for my move to Toronto, a savings (to ODSP for medical transportation) will quickly be realized. The money all comes from the same purse.

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