Thursday, August 22, 2019

Subject line: Disappointed

Here is what I wrote:

Dear [MLA for my riding],

Wednesday morning I was talking to some ladies who were telling me how helpful you were in finding solutions to problems of constituents. They urged me to contact you for help. Since the help I was seeking was not for me but for a friend, I passed this information on and my friend called you. She is an old woman with serious health issues and no doctor, and poor as well. She cannot afford to pay her bills and buy groceries any more. She raised a family and worked hard all her life. Her father made her quit school when she turned 16 so she was never able to complete high school, consequently the jobs she has had were not well paid. She was okay as long as her husband was alive but he got Alzheimer's and died. 

My friend's bills have mounted to a level she can no longer afford. In desperation she went to the food bank. She is only allowed to go once every 6 weeks and what they gave her was: 3 potatoes, 3 apples, 2 stalks of celery, a small bag of carrots, a few cans of soup, some bread rolls, a few tea bags and a package of frozen hamburger which turned out to be rotten when it thawed. For 2 people for 6 weeks (her disabled son lives with her). After paying all her bills she has $6.00 left for groceries for the month. Not just this month but every month. She has tried the housing authority but they told her there is a 2.5 year waitlist for subsidy. She has her name on the 811 waitlist for a doctor but they say it's up to the government and they have nothing for her. She has diabetes, COPD, acid reflux, arthritis, a pacemaker, high blood pressure and lives with constant pain. She needs a walker just to get around her tiny basement apartment. Nova Scotia Power told her the reason her electric bill is so high is because of the baseboard heaters she uses in the winter time (with the thermostat set at 15C … 15C!!!) and the fans she uses in the summer because it is so hot that she can't breathe (COPD).

I talked to my doctor, hoping to get her to take my friend as a patient. She said she couldn't do it. I am reasonably healthy so I offered to give up my place with this doctor to my friend but the doctor refused, said it couldn't be done unless she was a family relation. Told me I should call my MLA.

I told my friend to call your office and she did. She got your assistant who professed to be sympathetic but told her there was nothing to be done, she should try the churches. Then he hung up on her. She tried calling back, left a message, but no one returned the call. 

Clearly I was wrong to advise her to call you, and clearly my lady friends were wrong about your willingness to help. I am sorry that I caused my friend to fall deeper into despair, one more door slammed in her face.

I am appalled at your callousness, appalled at this government's willingness to let old women lose their homes and ability to feed themselves. I am not a Liberal, but before my friend called your office I thought to myself that if you could help her then I would change my vote. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for me, that won't be necessary. You have lived down to my expectations. 

You have connections and you know people, so you are in a better position to help my friend than I am. I can buy her a few groceries sometimes but she won't accept them from me. Do you know what it feels like to watch someone's health deteriorate dangerously all because of their living conditions and stress, and not be able to do anything about it? Probably not. 

Don't bother replying to this email message for I really am not in a mood for listening to excuses and pretenses at sympathy. If you are willing to help my friend then I'm sure your assistant took her name and phone number when she called so that you can act on it. I think that you need to get out more and understand what some of your constituents have to live with thanks to this government's lack of care for the most vulnerable.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I first ran it by one of my dog walking buddies because I was afraid I might come across too angry (ya think?) and thereby make the situation even worse. My buddy said: No No, Mr MLA needs to hear your anger! Then I called my friend in trouble to get her permission and she gave it right away. So I hit Send.

Ten minutes later my friend phoned to say that our MLA's assistant had just called her (after numerous messages left unanswered by my friend). Said he hadn't hung up on her, they just got disconnected. Said I was not a nice person and was trying to get him in trouble with his boss (Mr MLA). And where did I live, anyway? My friend professed ignorance, didn't know where I lived, somewhere in the county she guessed. 

But in spite of me not being a very nice person and getting the facts all wrong he was going to look into the situation and try to help my friend. And a few minutes after that call I got an email from the MLA's office politely telling me that they would look into the situation, and have a nice day. I replied: Thank you.

Well, if he accomplishes anything of assistance for my friend, then I guess that means I am on the hook to vote Liberal in the next provincial election.

That sucks.


Rain Trueax said...

Don't vote liberal lol. That's how we got into this situation. As a government official, he owes her the help he can give. I thought Canada was better about this than the US. Does she have PayPal? Probably not. Do you it to forward the help to her? I don't like GoFund me as it takes some of it. PayPal can get it all transferred.

She needs to recognize that being able to accept help is part of community. Not everyone can give it. Those who can should but those who need help must let others reach out as you wanted to do. Quit seeing the government as our only support but also our neighbors. Her situation is horrendous :(

CheerfulMonk said...

I agreed with PayPal vs GoFundMe. PayPal charges something for the transaction if one uses a credit card, but it's not nearly as much and they charge nothing if it's taken from your bank account.

Wisewebwoman said...

This is so so relevant to what our newly formed activist group is about, Annie. Can I copy this and - anonymously - read part of it at our press conference next week. It is not about Newfoundlanders but all of Canada and the poverty facing senior women it is disgraceful.

And PS make your vote count. Andrew Scheer would be a nightmare we would never recover from.


Annie said...

WWW, let me know what part you want to read, I want to respect my friend's privacy. You are right, and it is so easy to slip through the cracks. Older women in poverty are often invisible, there are no social workers or other support folks even aware of their existence. The MLA's assistant advised my friend to call various service organizations but right now they are mostly preoccupied with making sure poor children are ready for school. She's pretty far down on the priority list of people needing support services. I am pretty much it for advocate, and I'm not good at it.

Annie said...

Rain, every country and government has its flaws or weaknesses, no one is perfect. I agree that neighbours should help neighbours but in a mass society like we have now that is often not possible, neighbours don't really know who needs what. Governments try to fill in with one-size-fits-all solutions and that doesn't work for everybody. In Canada we rely more on government to provide social and health services than you do in the USA, that's a national choice. But we don't always get it right. As for GoFundMe or PayPal, I've never used either to raise money and don't know a lot about them. I do know that my friend's financial situation won't be solved by a one-off donation unless it is a really REALLY big one. And she badly needs a doctor to help manage all her health issues, I don't think GoFundMe or PayPal will solve that.

Wisewebwoman said...

if I have time I will work on it Annie so the IDs are impossible to figure out. Living in this tiny province I'm quite an expert on this and I would, of course, run it by you first.

I have asked you to join our advocacy group on FB. So we can pool info.