Many people who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness are on ODSP (Ontario Disabilities Support Program). It is like Ontario Works (which most people know as “welfare”) for disabled people. ODSP is an important financial support to those who are unable to work due to disability.
To qualify for ODSP, you must meet ODSP’s definition of disabled and meet their financial criteria. Under the ODSP Act, a person with a disability is someone who has “a substantial mental or physical impairment that is continuous or recurrent AND is expected to last a year or more. This physical mental impairment must directly result in a substantial restriction to the person’s ability to work, take care of him or herself, or take part in community life. The impairment(s), its duration, and the restriction(s) must also be verified by an approved health care professional.” There are also limitations on the dollar value of assets a person can have to qualify for ODSP.
A single person on ODSP receives approximately $1000 / month on average. According to Niagara Region’s statistics, the average rent for a bachelor apartment in 2013 was $564. A single person living on ODSP paying average rent will have $436 / month or $109 / week for all other expenses, including utilities, food, medication and transportation. If you are able to work while on ODSP, you can make up to $200 / month without having any money deducted from your income support. If you make more than $200 / month, 50% of what you earn is deducted from your income support and of course, if you earn enough money, you don’t qualify for ODSP income support.
People do not get rich on ODSP income support. It is a lifeline to those who are unable to work due to disability and is a vital part of the social safety net most Canadians are extremely proud of. We as a society take care of those who can not take care of themselves. ODSP helps, but it’s not a panacea to the disabled population, many of whom do end up being homeless or at imminent risk of losing their accommodations.
For more information on the ODSP program, visit the Government of Ontario website: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/odsp/index.aspx