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Local resident raises awareness of high cost of living for North Perth residents on fixed incomes

Brenda Brunton starts Facebook group called Disabilities and Low-Income North Perth Support and Awareness to encourage discussion of issues effecting residents living on fixed incomes. (Colin Burrowes Photo)

NORTH PERTH – Brenda Brunton was tired of seeing people living on fixed incomes discussing the high cost of rent on social media.

She understands where these people’s frustrations are coming from. She too receives an Ontario Disability Support Program cheque and she knows that most people on fixed incomes in North Perth are paying more than the maximum allotted amount for rent.

She has started a Facebook group called Disabilities and Low-Income North Perth Support and Awareness to share information about social supports and to encourage discussion in hopes of inspiring some grassroots solutions to the problems people are facing.

Since starting the group, she has been receiving messages from people telling her that people on ODSP just need to get more work. She said she gets told to stop being so lazy.

“You need to understand something, not all of us can work a nine-to-five job,” said Brunton. “There is a lot of people who are struggling right now. I’ve been there and I’ve done it myself. It’s like – are we going to be able to afford rent or are we going to be able to afford food for our children or to keep our hydro going?  It’s just an endless cycle of aggression that needs to stop.”

She said that people in the Facebook group have discussed the fact that local government can be involved in keeping the cost of living at Perth Meadows affordable so people have been wondering if there could be a similar model established for rental units for a wider range of North Perth residents.

Geared-to-income rental units are one of the most common that people have been asking about when speaking to Brunton.

“We’re doing the polls to help people see how the (cost of living) is affecting people,” she said. “We’re hoping that it opens people’s eyes up to realize that this is seriously needed.”

The plan is that after online brainstorming and discussions happen, the group will bring the conversation to North Perth, and possibly, Perth County council for further discussion.

North Perth has already directed Brunton towards information about the Human Services Navigator pilot project which was approved on May 21. The Human Services Navigator will help people in need of services access already existing services.

She said that is a big issue she has found in discussions. Organizations such as United Way Perth-Huron, for example, which may seem commonplace to many residents, may not be a known resource to those who need their services or people may not realize what services they provide.

Brunton looks forward to being able to direct people towards Human Services Navigator since it will be a single-trained resource with the primary focus of pointing people in need to the social service they need. However, she is not sure whether that will have much effect on the issues causing a cost of living which is not possible for people on a fixed income to afford.

“Our hashtag is Walk In My Shoes,” she said. “That is a big thing we’re trying to do. #walkinmyshoes.”

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.