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Homeless families in Halifax seek help from strangers on Kijiji

‘These things aren’t supposed to happen to working people,’ said single mother Shannon Graham

4 min read
caption Single mothers left scared and homeless in Halifax
Nicole Gnazdowsky
Single mothers left scared and homeless in Halifax
caption Single mothers left scared and homeless in Halifax
Nicole Gnazdowsky

A number of homeless families in the Halifax region are turning to classified ads site Kijiji to ask strangers for help as a last resort.

Shannon Graham and her 11-year-old son, DJ, are one of these families.

Graham was staying with a friend but when the lease ended earlier this month, she and her son were left homeless.

“I’ve tried all the shelters in the area, but none have room for the both of us,” she said.

Graham got help from another friend with an open room in their apartment until the end of the month, but she says the place is infested with bedbugs.

“He’s so tortured,” said Graham. “My child has welts on him the size of a baseball from bedbugs, but I can’t afford the stuff to get rid of them.”

Graham had a mini-stroke four years ago and was living on disability cheques. Income Assistance wouldn’t provide her with any extra income to compensate for the expenses that came along with having a child.

“I could have remained on disability because I was not well,” she said. “But with the cheques not covering my son, and I don’t like to sit still, I went back to work.”

Graham said she isn’t making enough money to cover her family’s living expenses, even while working.

“I’ve been working any job I can get my hands on – pizza places, McDonald’s – but it’s still not enough,” she said.

That’s when Graham decided to put out a call for help on Kijiji.

“It’s embarrassing because I work,”she said. “These things aren’t supposed to happen to working people.”

Graham said the only responses her ad has gotten so far are recommendations of shelters and food banks, but she feels she has already exhausted all available options.

Brittany Swinimer, a mother of a one-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, said she is bouncing around from couch to couch waiting for Income Assistance to offer any kind of help to her family.

“I’ve been in the process of trying to get social assistance for some time now,” she said. “They’ve just been giving me the run around.”

Swinimer moved her family to Cape Breton from Halifax to attend NSCC in hopes of receiving her licensed practical nurse certification, but without any income assistance to support her family, Swinimer had to move back to Halifax.

She is now staying at her mother’s three-bedroom apartment with her kids and four other people.

“It’s really crammed,” Swinimer said. “I’m in a living room. I really need to be grounded and my kids need stability.”

Without income assistance, she cannot move her kids into a better place.

“I can’t stay here for much longer,” she said. “I’ve looked into shelters, but I can’t bring myself to take my kids there just yet.”

Swinimer turned to Kijiji looking for anyone who could provide the basic necessities her children need — like a crib — so once she does receive funding and can afford a place of her own, her kids can be comfortable again.

Social Assistance reforms

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said the province is working hard to make changes to the social assistance system so that families do not end up in these desperate situations.

“This benefit reform is talking about substantial change to really make a difference in these families’ lives because quite frankly, they deserve it,” she said. “This benefit reform is long overdue. Every poverty advocate in the province will tell you this system doesn’t work.”

Without a timeline in place for the issues of family and child poverty to be fully addressed, Graham and Swinimer continue to hope someone will answer their Kijiji calls for help.

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  1. P

    Patti Doyle-Bedwell

    I am very concerned about these families. I hope everything works out. Poverty sucks. When will the changes for Social Assistance occur, and will these changes help these families? Please don't connect this situation with the refugees, Nova Scotia Social Assistance should be helping families who fall through the cracks. The scary thing: Can't support your kids, one could see CAS come knocking.
  2. M


    thats the thanks you give your friend letting you stay there telling everyone she has bedbugs. Your just making it harder on yourself. Nobody will let you stay at their home knowing you have bedbugs now
  3. M

    Marilyn Tilli

    Hi.. My 19 year old son had a brain aneurism and a stroke 11 months ago.. The stroke left him paralyzed on his right side, and he is disabled.. After spending six months in rehab, we came home to fight the social assistance program for help for him, and it's been a up high battle, and very degrading for my son... He finally got help from the social services , but now they cut off his assistance every two months ... I keep reading that changes are gonna be made, but when?? For God sake help our our citizens first...My son was suppose to travel to St.Johns, NL to see a specialist , the social assistance program told me that would not cover it, so I had to cancel his appointments in St. John's... It's tough to be sick but it's even worst to be sick and poor *Small alteration made to this comment to remove profanity. We want to share your thoughts, but ask people to keep it respectful under our comment moderation policy. -Signal Editors
  4. s

    sue leblanc

    Very sad we can't help our own ppl ..
  5. g


    Don't scapegoat the Syrian refugees
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