When musician Bif Naked moved to Vancouver as a young person, welfare enabled her to find housing and secure employment. She credits much of her success to that time in her life, when social assistance allowed her to get on her feet and follow her dreams. However, the musician also understands that she would be in a very different place today if she wasn’t able to find a job or even be able to work, and that the money that’s provided by the government for rent, food and bills is barely enough to get by to begin with.
Bif Naked recently wrote about her experience in The Georgia Straight as a response to The Welfare Food Challenge, where people are encouraged to try to simply feed themselves on $610 a month – the entire amount allocated to those seeking social assistance in BC. She talks about how after rent, bus tickets, the cheapest phone plan available and any other bills, that totals to $84.00 for food A MONTH.
The musician says about the Welfare Food Challenge:
“…my emotional state turned to complete garbage. I found myself bit teary and overwhelmed at the slightest of things, all of the time. I felt lousy, to say the least. And very hungry for things I took for granted, like apples, celery, juices, and coffee.”
But as poor as the musician felt while malnourished, the social media comments she received for doing the challenge made her feel even worse about the state of society. While many of them were about her own life and how she should ‘shut the fuck up and go back to her tour bus’, most of them were stigmatizing those on welfare and how they shouldn’t be receiving benefits in the first place.
Many misconceptions were:
Near the end of her article, Bif Naked points out that blaming those utilizing social assistance isn’t the way to express the need for change, and that the fault really lies within the government that’s imposing poverty on people who through misfortune are unable to have a job.
“Along with hundreds of other Welfare Food Challenge participants, I am indeed trying to raise awareness about the plight of our poor, to promote understanding, and to educate the public to dispel the myths about welfare and welfare recipients. The idea is to encourage change and to try to get the attention of those with power to make those changes: Your provincial government.”
So what can we do to help? Share this article, take the challenge and correct those who continue to spread the stigma that those on welfare are lazy. They could very well be the next Bif Naked.
Read the rest of Bif Naked’s Georgia Straight article here.