By Guest Blogger: Karen Lee
Meet Paul – a 52 year old man I met at Bissell Centre’s Drop-In. Once upon a time Paul was financially comfortable. He worked for nine years as a journeyman tinsmith making $34 an hour. He had a place to live and didn’t have to worry about the next meal. But all that changed when he got into an unfortunate accident at work in 2008, which left him with severely injured hands and an amputated finger. After six major reconstructive surgeries over the past three years Paul still doesn’t have full usage of his hands, and today he is one of the many homeless people living in the inner city.
Paul blames the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) for his current situation. Paul is currently receiving $648 a month from them for his accident, which he says will run out in July. Understandably, he is angry and frustrated. Paul has been working all of his life but now he isn’t able to afford a place to live. For about a year Paul has been living on the streets and using inner city organizations like Bissell Centre to just get by on a daily basis. At Bissell he relies on the Casual Labour Program to make some extra money.
Up until recently Paul was receiving $1,856 per month for the past three years until WCB told him he is ready to return to work. According to Paul, he is unable to return to work as a tinsmith because he lost the dexterity he once had in his hands. He estimates that he can only do a third of the work he once did. He was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) about a year and half ago.
Paul is uncertain about his future. He doesn’t know if he can recover from his PTSD. Finding work has been difficult for him, he even tried training for other types of work through Bissell’s Employment Program, but his PTSD makes it challenging for him to remember the skills and information taught to him.
As my meeting with him concludes, I wonder how Paul’s story will end. He told me he will continue to fight the WCB’s decision to cease his compensation. I hope it works out for him. Until then, he will continue his daily visits to Bissell to eat, do laundry, make phone calls, for emotional support and other necessities.