Peg Sharing Circle - Exploring the Lived Experience of Poverty - Ida Flett

By Ida Flett, Christa Rust (Interviewer), Jason E.J. Manaigre (Technical Producer) on February 15, 2011

"Poverty is earning just enough to get by, never having money for extras."

Ida is the mother of two grown children, born eight years apart. She lives in a small bachelor suite, which costs her $428 per month, or 62 per cent of her income. She volunteers twice a week at Winnipeg Harvest, which she really enjoys.

Ida grew up in Northern Manitoba and attended a residential school for grades 1 - 4. She talked about how small she was when she was taken there and how difficult that experience was. Ida said "you look at your parents and they look at you, and then you're put on an airplane." She didn't know how to speak English when she started school, and yet every time she or anyone else spoke their language they were slapped. While her questions were often trying to figure out what was going on, the people at the residential school thought the children were talking about them. When she was in grade 4, her younger brother was stabbed in the wrist by an adult at the school. As a result, her parents removed them from the school.. She has recently begun seeing someone about this experience which is giving her a chance to let it out.

Ida raised her two children on her own. She moved to Winnipeg when they were young because she didn't want them to go to a residential school. She didn't want them to experience what she had gone through, and she wanted to be with them. Although she had a husband, he was an alcoholic and didn't help her. She was on welfare for a while and then got a job. Speaking of that time, she says, "I was the only one who worked and the only one who raised the children."

Despite having a hard time in school, both of Ida's children graduated from grade 12. Her daughter is currently taking a higher education program in cooking, with the goal of one day owning a restaurant. Her son is having a harder time. He didn't speak English when he started school. Then, when he was 13 years old, he began to experience serious depression and anxiety. He was hospitalized for quite a long time until they were able to find the right medication. He is still on that medication and is doing better.

Ida worked throughout most of her children's childhood. She worked as a Nurse's Aid, but found that to be hard on her body. There was no one to help lift the patients. She then began cleaning rooms in a hotel. Because of their low income, she says that she wasn't able to provide her children with recreational opportunities.

Ida is currently on disability and earns $695 per month. Her cheques come on a monthly basis, and she finds it difficult to stretch her money out for the entire month. She would like to work, but her health won't allow it. She recently had a hip replacement and is waiting for a second one. She lives in a small bachelor suite which she says is so small that when guests come she has to sleep on the floor. She would like to move, especially as the rent is increasing every year, but she can't find a place for less than $500-$600 per month.