What began with a cash windfall for a Prince Rupert woman has spiralled into a nightmare tale that almost ended with the grandmother of five being evicted from her home.
Last Christmas, Lavern Wilson won the $1,000 Shop Prince Rupert prize give-away. She spent the money on clothing and a few Christmas items for her grandchildren.
“I was ecstatic about winning,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t believe I won it. I have five grandchildren so I decided I was going shopping for them. What’s happening now is just really crazy.”
The prize money was a memorable perk to the holiday season, but the cheer soured when Wilson claimed the money with the Ministry of Social Services.
Wilson is what’s known a “person with persistent multiple barriers” by the Ministry bureaucracy, meaning she is eligible for financial assistance due to persistent ailments: in her case this includes rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
But last month when Wilson’s regular social assistance cheque failed to arrive in the mail, the Ministry told her the $1,000 contest-win had exceeded her allowable earnings exemption of $500, and would therefore be deducted from her cheques. The news left her without her already-meagre $612 income for the month of January. She was unable to pay her rent Feb. 1 and within 10 days her landlord served an eviction notice.
“This is crazy,” Wilson said. “I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I’m being punished for winning something, for wanting to give my [grand] kids a beautiful Christmas. I just don’t understand it. They just keep telling me ‘you’re in excess, you’re in excess.’”
As a person with persistent multiple barriers, Wilson is still under obligation to seek employment. However, deputy minister of social development, Mark Sieben, says because such a person’s ability to work may vary from day to day, the ministry allocates extra resources to this caseload to ensure people aren’t penalized in error.
“We encourage people to ask for reconsideration and to do that with advocates we are very pleased to work with.”
At press time the Ministry of Social Development was expecting to review an appeal of Wilson’s case this week. The appeal entitles her to a monetary supplement to pay her rent.
~By Quinn Bender