Oberg reviewing rules on welfare for homeless: Calgary [Alberta,

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 22 Mar 1999 16:09:36 -0800 (PST)

FWD  Calgary Herald - March 21, 1999


Jim Cunningham
Calgary Herald

Calgary [Alberta, Canada]

Social Services Minister Lyle Oberg says he's willing to look at changing the
rules which bar homeless people from receiving welfare cheques because
they have no home address.

Other ways of letting the homeless receive benefits could be tried, as long as
recipients are accountable for the cash they get, said Oberg.

"That accountability is extremely important," he added.

People on welfare are expected to look for work while getting benefits and
the government needs a way of making sure they are making the effort, the
minister said following a conference Friday in Calgary of the Alberta
Association of Registered Social Workers.

Those receiving welfare are required to provide a home address before
getting assistance, a situation which has effectively prevented Alberta's
homeless population from qualifying for benefits despite their obvious need.

The dilemma facing the homeless prompted Calgary Ald. Joe Ceci to urge
social workers and municipal government officials to press for a change in
the policy.

Ceci, who was a social worker before joining city council in 1995, said he
plans to ask the city to help lead the charge on the issue. "It's an
entitlement," he said.

He said he'll ask the city's community and social services department to
prepare a resolution calling for a change for presentation to next fall's
convention of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.

He also urged delegates to work together and with other social agencies to
get the policy changed.

Grassroots pressure forced such a change in Montreal, where the city had
refused to pay welfare to people who did not have a home address.

Dermot Baldwin, who runs the the Calgary Drop-In centre, the city's main
shelter for the homeless, welcomed the move. He said he has to deal with
clients who don't have enough money to use public transit in a bid to find
apartments or employment.

He said there are about 1,200 street people in the city now, some of whom
will stay overnight at the centre if the weather gets cold.

He also suggested that only about five per cent of those would be likely to
abuse welfare if they were allowed to pick up their cheques at some place
other than a residence.

Currently, a single person claiming assistance can receive $402 a month,
while an adult supporting one child can claim $819 for food, shelter and
other benefits.

[Southam Newspapers]


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