Shedding Light on the SIS program. Johnny’s Story

“Johnny” is long-term tenant of ours and we shared part of his experience at the #ChangeSIS rally last fall. As a former SAP (Social Assistance Program) recipient, he, like many others, struggled when transitioning onto the SIS program (Saskatchewan Income Support).

Our Housing team has been fighting to keep Johnny housed with us since February 2021…ONE FULL YEAR! He has been in continuous arrears since being placed on SIS and staff’s energy is spent trying to keep Johnny’s current rent up to date so he does not get further behind.

In December we were at a point where we could not afford to have Johnny go further into arrears. After numerous calls and us telling the SIS worker that we will have to evict Johnny if he doesn’t pay rent, we were able to get Johnny an emergency meeting with his worker. Our Housing staff were able to attend via phone as a support to Johnny as he has an acquired brain injury. Johnny was present with the worker. To sum up the meeting:

  • the rental supplement Johnny was no longer receiving was being clawed back from his SIS benefits anyway;
  • the SIS worker let staff know there is a 3 – 4 month wait period for SAID applications because of the volume of applications received (Johnny first applied months ago);
  • In order to reinstate direct payments, the SIS worker has to complete a 10 question assessment with Johnny so he can be deemed a level 4 (he was currently a level 3) and;
  • Johnny also needed to complete a budgeting worksheet to identify all expenses of income to see if there is a loss or gain in his budget.

It is a complex process to try and get an individual to what the government deems a level 4. After sitting through that assessment alongside Johnny it was clear that most people would struggle through question 1 and not complete the assessment on their own. It was a list of questions that even the SIS worker didn’t have full confidence in what they were asking, they just knew they had to follow the checklist.

But Johnny wasn’t put on direct payments to the landlord after that meeting with the SIS worker, he was put on trusteeship. The kicker…Johnny didn’t even know that he was on trusteeship.

Our housing team did a routine check at Johnny’s apartment in January and became aware that his power was disconnected. Staff phoned his trustee who was not aware of this situation and contacted the city about getting his power reconnected. To do so it included:

  • a reconnect fee of $52.50;
  • a deposit of $150.00 and;
  • full payment of all arrears

Due to legal requirements we have to legally evict someone if there power is disconnected.

After staff phoned his worker, he was placed in an urgent queue for two weeks to get the funds needed to get his power back on. But, if staff did not call his trustee, and speak with his worker this problem would not have been resolved. It took being in crisis mode, and it took a lot of advocating and support from staff to make that happen.

Quint is one of the least expensive places to rent, but Johnny’s shelter allowance does not cover his rent or his utilities. Johnny’s shelter allowance is $575 per month. Even if paid directly to Quint he still needs to take $25 out of his $285 basic allowance to pay the rest of his rent, then another $60 for utilities, leaving Johnny with $200 a month to cover food and other basic needs for the month. The SIS worker justified this by saying Johnny was provided a list of resources so he can utilize the food bank and the friendship inn. Basic supports do not match reality.

The SIStem is not set up to fully support someone. It is clear that the shelter and basic allowance do not cover the costs of living. But any other additional support available to a person is a fight to get. Why?

Johnny is very vulnerable. We have an onsite caretaker who checks in on him regularly. If he gets evicted and forced to move somewhere else, there is likely not going to be a caretaker who cares about his wellbeing.

We do not know Johnny’s current trustee status, because we do not receive rent in a timely matter. Trustees have to wait for money to be mailed to them before it can be paid to us…..The realities of Johnny’s lived experiences on SIS continues to evolve.