Welfare recipient blames government for home disaster

Jim Day
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Kim Morningstar has been forced out of her home for three weeks now after her pipes froze because she couldn't afford a hooded jacket for her propane flue and social assistance doesn't cover that expense.

Resident forced out of house after request for assistance denied

Kim Morningstar believes a little help from the province would have avoided a major headache in what is likely shaping up to be a significant repair bill.

Morningstar has relied on social assistance for more than a decade.

She owns a relatively modest home in a trailer park in Charlottetown. She bought the place outright with money received from an insurance claim following a bad car accident in 1994.

She says a whiplash injury and chronic pain resulting from the crash keeps her from working.

Since the house is paid in full, Morningstar doesn’t have mortgage payments to contend with. She does, however, receive social assistance to pay for heat, lights, property taxes, propane and her lot fee.

On top of that she is allotted another $391 monthly for all other living expenses, notably food, clothing, and transportation.

That money does not go far, she says. In fact, before the end of each month, food is scarce.

So when an unexpected expense arises, finding a way to cover the cost is a challenge.

Each winter, she has problems with her propane heater flue getting blocked with snow causing the pilot light to go out.

Her social services worker told her to fix the problem herself but she felt unable to do the job. A propane company suggested she install a hooded jacket on the flue at a cost of $150 to rectify the problem.

She turned to social services for financial assistance. She was declined so she was not able to proceed with getting the work done.

As a result, her pipes all froze.

Morningstar has been forced out of her home for three weeks now and is living with a friend.

She returned to her home Monday to size up the damage. She was shocked at what she saw.

The floor of one bathroom is covered in a thick sheet of ice. The toilet bowl is a block of ice as is the bathtub.

A second bathroom also has ice damage, but to a lesser extent. Her many plants are dead. She fears that thawing of the ice will most likely lead to further damage.

“This is terrible,’’ she said trying to take it all in. “This is nasty.’’

Morningstar does have home insurance but is not sure yet what, if any, coverage she will receive for the damage. She plans now to call on social services once again for assistance.

“I don’t have any other choice,’’ she says. “This is way too much for me.’’

Asked to comment on Morningstar’s plight, the province’s Department of Community Services and Seniors told The Guardian Monday that it does not discuss a client’s situation even if he or she gives permission to discuss the case — something Morningstar was willing to sign off on.

However, Rhea Jenkins, director of social programs, did say that the department deals on a case-by-case basis with requests for repairs to property by homeowners on social assistance. An applicant may make a request to the department for social assistance to make repairs to their residence.

Jenkins says about seven per cent of the social assistance caseload is homeowners — that is just over 200 people.

Shelter expense for people on social assistance, she notes, includes heat, electricity, rent or mortgage.

Organizations: Morningstar, Community Services

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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  • fortunate
    March 12, 2014 - 22:17

    After reading the comments I am left to wonder, why has this woman not worked in 10 years? Yes I understand she had a car accident, but to not work in 10 years at ANYTHING. I work very hard to help support my family and I have health issues. I don`t have two bathrooms. Why was the bathtub a block of ice if the pipes were frozen? Some comments on here are point blank telling the truth, not being rude. I am left to wonder if someone offered Ms Morningstar a job would she accept. Maybe a more in depth interview describing her health issues and what she could work at and explaining why she left her home when the pipes froze would put everything in perspective for us readers. This article just seems to leave us with a lot of unanswered questions that we are suppose to pay for. My vote would be another interview before any $$$$$$ are paid , donated, gifted ........or whatever. Another interview might even get her a job.....would she accept??????

  • Abolish the welfare system
    March 12, 2014 - 10:32

    I'm sure she needed the help when the pipes have frozen at first but why leave your home when you might have known the situation will be much worse,she should of got a few electric heaters and some mops at Dollarama and ask some neighbors for some help, she has not worked in 10 years,how about going back to school and get trained for a job that would suit her,even if it's a sit down job,this welfare system is too lienent its needs to get some major changes like the EI system, too many thinks they are entitled to live off the system for life...PS. Some people cannot work due to heath reasons and that is the people who need the help.

  • ....
    March 12, 2014 - 09:00

    honestly, WHO CARES. leave the poor woman alone, she asked for help. the government will control what they do with our tax money, we cannot help that but 150$ is not that much money but to some it is. typical island just complaining and leaving comments. what if she reads this, she asked for help just be nice... i bet half the island this weekend will help a friend out and buy them a case of beer instead of helping someone who is in more need. this is the 21st century, everyones so self absorbed and rude now a days. if were a small community we should work together not bring everyone down and bash them. (on a side note, i do not know this lady but how would you feel if one day your photo was in the guardian and people were posting hate comments about you) TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED hakuna matata

  • Really??
    March 12, 2014 - 08:58

    So her pipes froze and her best plan of action was to keep the heat off and take off for 3 weeks in winter? Seems extremely negligent to me. Now she wants the government to foot the bill? No I don't think so. Get a job. She had a whiplash injury from 1994! Pop some Tylenol and get on with it.

  • Shocked
    March 12, 2014 - 02:17

    Why should the government, who has looked after this woman for a decade, pay for her home renovations? They certainly don't pay for mine... And she seems to be allergic to finding any type of job as well - not much of a surprise when you consider the surname. No sympathy here - she's somehow managed to buy a home, but can't maintain it, that's not the responsibility of the Prince Edward Island taxpayer or government.

  • Useless
    March 11, 2014 - 22:29

    She just shows her mentality on maintaining a home,and thinks welfare should be there for her,this welfare system should be all audit to see who really need the help and who is just using the system....what a joke.

  • Susan
    March 11, 2014 - 21:07

    I would be embarrassed to appear in the Guardian, or anywhere, over $150. NO, the government should not pay. I work 2 jobs minimum wage full-time to support my children. I don't own a home because I know I could not afford to maintain it. Where is the common sense with this woman? Could I go to the government for $150 or 10 cents with my hand out? NO I couldn't and wouldn't expect to get help. It just amazes me how some people think the government and society owe them something. Unbelievable!

  • spud
    March 11, 2014 - 19:54

    Would she not have a friend or two who might have had an electric heater she could have borrowed!!

  • Justin
    March 11, 2014 - 19:35

    This story is truly unbelievable. I am not sure which I am more appalled about the fact the Media would even print this story or the fact that this woman is complaining. The media should be condemned for even printing this story and the woman should be totally investigated to see why she is even collecting Social Assistance. UNBELIEVABLE!!!

    • THINK
      March 12, 2014 - 03:59

      To "Justin", no need to insult our neighbour lady; she knows who she is and she well knows what she is talking about. Leave her alone if you cannot help or sympathize, at least do not judge.

  • Whydoesthisevenmatter?
    March 11, 2014 - 16:05

    Why is this story getting more attention then the other article on this site, there's a pot plant coming to pei, that they are putting on OUR island, it's going to cost at least 4 million to set up!! Do you not think our 'tax payer' dollars are not going into that? Now there's something to growl and grumble about!

  • candrayo
    March 11, 2014 - 15:57

    Wouldn't it be nice if help was a little easier to ask for…and a little easier to give…..?

  • Simone
    March 11, 2014 - 15:19

    For all those who think the Government should pay for this ladies misfortune...Step up to the plate,search her out and hand her your money. Entirely up to you but don't belittle others who believe that this lady should shoulder the responsibility.As for Justin 1448,your tax dollars may help her buy a mop to clean up. Better yet,find out where she lives and give her a hand.I pray that the Guardian headline is not a true reflection of how this lady feels because the government is not to be "blamed" for her misfortunes.

  • Compassionate
    March 11, 2014 - 14:51

    The mark of a truly evolved society is how it treats those less fortunate. Many Islanders have become cold-hearted, and mean-spirited towards those that need a bit of help. I know this lady... and she can't work. She needed a bit of help and didn't get it and made some poor choices. She needed $150.00 ... not a fortune for the government to spend but it would have made a big difference to her. I would rather see $150 of my tax dollars spent on an Islander that needs a helping hand than $212000 on a company that may go bankrupt next year. Be kind, people, you never know when you might need a helping hand.

  • Curious
    March 11, 2014 - 14:32

    I am wondering, if she could afford to buy a house, but not maintain it, why would she buy it? It was obviously purchased after her injury when she had no plans to ever work again. Is that how welfare works? Spend all your money (a large sum if she was able to buy a house) on whatever you want and we'll keep supporting you? Do they not consider assets? I agree that welfare should be there for assistance in emergencies, or when someone needs TEMPORARY assistance, but this lady has been and will continue to be supported by welfare for her whole life!! She should have to sell her house, and the money should have to last her a certain amount of time. So many people are working hard at low income jobs, and cannot afford a home, yet she doesn't do a thing, and expects support. Get. A. Job!!!!!

    • Peter
      March 11, 2014 - 15:36

      So you'd rather she sold the house, then social services pay her rent for however many years? As for the house, it's in a trailer park... doesn't that tell you something? I presume you're a student of the "new math" ?

  • JUSTIN1488
    March 11, 2014 - 13:31

    I don't like to getting into judging people before I meet them but for goodness sake the people crying about 'my tax dollars' have got to be in the category of the uneducated. helping fellow islandrs in need is a tiny portion of our annual revenue! if you ar e truly concerned with where 'your' tax dollars are being spent, I advise that maybe you should take a minute of your precious time and maybe find out what ridiculous items the government actually spends 'your' money on. I for one am quite happy that there are programs in place to help my fellow man in times of need. although I do agree that a small amount of recipients do abuse the system but that happens with anything that involves money. please people you should spend your free time better instead of kicking a complete stranger when she down and stop thinking you deserve a medal for being employed while health problems is stopping another human being from earning gainful employment. if you that judgemental about someone getting helped out than you would prob be more comfortable living in communist country

    • Island Girl
      March 11, 2014 - 14:45

      Amen...

    • I agree
      March 11, 2014 - 15:54

      Well said Justin 1488.

    • chris
      March 11, 2014 - 20:45

      38 million a year on pei spent on welfare alone.......

  • Full of holes
    March 11, 2014 - 11:52

    This story has more holes than a screen door and I'm disappointed that the guardian continues to publish this rubbish without taking an objective view and asking a few simple questions. First of all if the pilot light went out why didn't she relight it? Secondly water doesn't run out of frozen pipes and flood the place simply because they froze. They have to first freeze then thaw. Before that happens you can turn off the water, furnace etc. to stop the water from spraying out. In order for this type of damage to occur the residence had to be left unattended. Now she feels that taxpayers, because let's face it, the government has no money other than what they take from members that actually make a positive contribution to society,should have to pay for her irresponsible decisions. I don't think so. In addition, she expects people to believe that there is no job whatsoever that she can do because of a whiplash injury in 1994. Get real!

    • not wondering at all
      March 11, 2014 - 13:53

      I note the time your comment was posted and that you seem to believe positive contribution to society is lecturing the less fortunate. Actually your comment is hateful and small-minded. I only hope you are unemployed and no one is paying you for the time it takes you to spew. PS - I think my family must have met you the last time they visited. They came for two weeks, stayed less than two days, and took me to Cape Breton for the rest of their vacation. They kept me and all the wonderful people there is stitches telling us of their encounters with your ilk. By the way, they are all employed and descendants of white Loyalists so I know you probably loved them.

  • Just One Question
    March 11, 2014 - 11:34

    To all of you people who think she shouldn't get a penny I ask; exactly where do you think our tax dollars should be spent if not on people who have had some hard luck and need a hand. It could be you some day. Some people do take advantage of EI and Social Assistance, yes, but what percentage really get away with it? Honestly, are you just jealous?

    • HUH
      March 11, 2014 - 12:21

      The money should be spent to build roads, so people can get to work, and for hospitals, which I assume helped her after her injury. And schools, so people can be educated enough to help look after themselves.

  • Simone
    March 11, 2014 - 11:13

    I'm sorry, but this woman has the ability to navigate the intricacies of the Social Services system.With that ability in mind,she should have figured out that having frozen pipes and then going to be with a friend,would not rectify the situation.Why was she shocked when she returned home after 3 weeks?She compounded an already bad situation(frozen pipes) by leaving and needs to get out of a bad situation on her own.This is not being "mean" this is being "real".

  • No More Discussions, Lets HELP
    March 11, 2014 - 11:03

    No more discussions on Ms Morningstar, it was perhaps hard enough for her to come forward, I am offering my services to collect any monies to go toward "A Hooded Jacket", my car to go around and collect the money as well as go and purchase the Jacket after collection, lets see if someone will come forward after my offer, to put the Jacket on,,,how many times does small things get done with the ones who have the get-up-and-go not to compain and just do it,,,,,my offer at sandi883@gmail.com

  • TO: Ironworkermg
    March 11, 2014 - 10:56

    Great you travel back and forth to Alberta to work and support your family glad to hear you have your health to be able to do so but that does not give you the right to judge others you do not know this woman are her situation so because you are healthy and do your part you think by going to Alberta to work that makes you god I think not I also have to leave my home and work in Alberta but I still can feel for other islanders who are down and sometimes it is not their choice in life bad things happen to good people.

  • HUH
    March 11, 2014 - 10:49

    While following the paralympics, and admiring the hardships these athletes have overcome, I wonder what it would take for someone to not be able to find something to bring in even a part time income.

  • hmmm
    March 11, 2014 - 10:45

    She can stand, walk, talk, move around. I find it incredible that she cannot work in some way, somewhere. There are people who have chronic debilitating disorders (wheelchair bound, seriously disabled) who still find the motivation and pride to get out and do something for a living. (eg. Isaac Asimov... totally paralyzed by ALS, completely wheelchair bound, but even he still made a productive living because of the energy and drive he had to succeed and overcome). Until someone is willing to at least try to help them selves, even just a little, I have a hard time feeling any sympathy. Too much of this "poor little me" bug going around these days.

    • well put
      March 11, 2014 - 17:50

      Finally ..I so agree. Kind of like the guy that complaines downtown about no being able to work because he is so sore...lol...he stands out there on the pavement but cant stand behind a counter serving burgers..

  • Ashamed of our govt
    March 11, 2014 - 10:36

    Carmen - you misread my post. I spoke of my sister who has a child that is on assistance to reflect that I am aware of the intricacies of welfare policy on PEI. I do not know Ms. Morningstar nor her situation. I can only speak to the issues around provincial welfare policy. Good luck Ms Morningstar.

  • ASHAMED OF WHAT I AM READING
    March 11, 2014 - 10:25

    What I am sick of is these people who are complaining all the time about helping others with their hard earned tax dollars.We all pay taxs, when the people you are talking about buy food or buy clothes etc. they too pay taxs.This is a case of ( uncaring ),(all about me people) having to hurt someones feelings so they can get their point across.I hope it made your day to kick someone when they are down!Well let me do the same GIVE YOUR HEADS A SHAKE! Some of us still care when everyday people for whatever reason have terrible things happen to them walk a mile in their shoes before you start judging them.There are so many people on this Island going through rough times right now with this winter we are having and they dont need you trying to puff yourself up by knocking thm down the welfare can do that to them you dont have to bother.And for the record no I am not on welfare but if I was because of people like you I sure wouldnt tell any one! So much for this gentle Island!

    • cromwell
      March 11, 2014 - 13:51

      Instead of posting these ascerbic comments, buy the woman a 'hooded jacket'! You do know that the propane tank could have been covered by something like an old winter coat which would have provided increased protection, but it appears easier to moan about one's lot in lfe than actually do something to help oneself. Miss Morningstar appears to be one who believes she is now entitled to be a welfare recipient for life (already 10 years and seemingly no effort to find some accommodated work). At what point do Social Services do something to help Miss Morningstar regain some degree of self-respect and find some suitable work? (I realise that it is not easy on PEI, but she should at least try)

  • Carmen
    March 11, 2014 - 10:00

    I did not see mention of her being a single Mom anywhere in this article. (unless you know Ms Morningstar, then, have the guts to post your name, not hide)... I fully uderstood, that she left because of the frozen pipe issue, not for a 3 week vacation with a friend... perhaps if people would read, and maybe reread, they might understand better. Everyones situation, is different, so, unless you have walked in Her shoes, you all really should not be making such comments. Good Luck Kim, I hope you get the help you need....C.McG.

  • Ashamed of our govt
    March 11, 2014 - 09:34

    My heart hurt for this lady and many others like her. For those of you that absolutely haven't a clue - assistance does not provide for the necessities no matter how hard you budget. I know as I have a sister who has major health issues and a disabled child. She worked her whole life until her health issues. She is very independent but we help her whenever something comes up that is out of the norm.....her food situation is always bad as they go without to pay the basics. This woman cannot work (probably not even a desk job as she probably has a lot of pain even while sitting). Get of your high horse folks....until you've been there you haven't a clue how little we provide to those on assistance. Govt needs to change its internal policy regarding emergency assistance as it costs tax payers more in the long run. PS. Our taxes pay for this service for when we all might need it.....hope you never do.

  • Shirley
    March 11, 2014 - 09:28

    After reading comments on here today it makes me laugh when they call this a Gentle Island with such" nice friendly "people Gentle island nice people my ass from what I read in some of these comments is from some heartless cruel people because their lives are ok and they work and on and on you go I am not un EI or welfare but do know there is reasons for some who have to be and that is life face it. One commenter wrote she was not on disability have you ever tried to squeeze for disability after been hurt they will come up with every reason not to give a person a disability check so some are forced to welfare. When I hear islands are so nice when I am travelling I will think of some of the so nice commenters on here and say YES REAL NICE """LOL

    • L.A.
      March 11, 2014 - 16:29

      Nobody calls it the "Gentle Island" but a contracted marketing company probably from Ontario. I don't know why people always bring this up in every single subject. It has literally nothing to do with anything.

  • That Guy From PEI
    March 11, 2014 - 09:18

    For a Gentle Island, there's a lot of nasty, hate-filled people. She did the best she could obviously and survived on little or nothing, more than you nasty folks could have done. I would like to think that there's some nice people left in PEI that could help this lady out. I for one support her, and it's embarrassing that Social Assistance could not help her out with $150.

    • tgfp
      March 11, 2014 - 10:56

      If you feel so compassionate then send her the money. She deserves none of our tax dollars for house repair.

  • Becky
    March 11, 2014 - 08:48

    Let me get this straight. She own the house. What happens when she needs a new roof? Or furnace? If she can't afford to OWN a home which includes maintainance....she should sell. That money would go a long way to renting an apartment that the landlord is responsible for upkeep. No sympathy here tired of people bleeding the system dry. Can't do physical work get a desk job. God people stop thinking the government should bail everyone out

    • Exactly!
      March 11, 2014 - 11:45

      This is the most common sense comment here. Let's be practicle. If this women cannot work for some reason, then she likely cannot afford to maintain a home. It is not reasonable to ask that the government/taxpayer keep everyone living such an expensive lifestyle. Simple economics.

    • GetReal
      March 11, 2014 - 17:33

      So she owns her home and has been on assistance for 10 years. If she rented for $700/month for 10 years, then she just saved the government from putting out $84,000 on housing and cant get $150 for a repair. Instead of being so hateful, go learn some math...and compassion while ur at it

    • HUH
      March 11, 2014 - 18:50

      Get Real, that is if we are to assume the government should pay her way the rest of her life, and in 10 years, there was no opportunity to work, even part time. We have people with disabilities working in many places, I guess it just depends on how self reliant a person wants to be.

  • Ironworkermg
    March 11, 2014 - 08:29

    First a guy whining about not getting his ei yesterday now a welfare receipent crying about frozen pipes today,I'm so sick of my hard earned tax money being used to support all these deadbeats. Pei is in shambles. Whats wrong with these people , guys like us make the sacrafice to travel back and forth to alberta to support our families and don't complain about it, then we have these people using the system as income. It's so wrong, why should I have to support these people because of their choices in life

  • Islander
    March 11, 2014 - 08:24

    TO 3 WEEKS Read the story again she had to leave her home for three weeks because her heat went out and froze the pipes because she could not afford a hooded jacket for the flue .So you think she should have stayed in a home and froze .It makes me sick to hear comments from ones who have no idea what it is like to live one day to the next with little to live on let alone have a repair bill. I am lucky I do not need help but I certainly can have compassion for others who do and if I had of known that this lady needed help to purchase a hooded jacket to keep heat on I would have helped her purchase one so she would have been able to stay with heat on and I am not a wealthy person but do feel for others in this world.

  • Ben Douglas
    March 11, 2014 - 08:12

    She would't spend $150, so now the tax payers should? I don't think so!

  • BB
    March 11, 2014 - 08:09

    Poor planning and poor judgment on your part does not constitute wasting my tax dollars. Sorry. Hire a teacher or a nurse instead!

  • 3 weeks
    March 11, 2014 - 07:57

    She left her home for 3 weeks knowing the pilot for the heat was out.$150.00 for a pilot jacket. Sure would think it would have cost at least that much for your food for that long at a friends. Three weeks before you went back to a house you knew had no heat? But of course tax dollars should pay .This is a joke.

    • Maggie G
      March 11, 2014 - 08:16

      If you read correctly she left her home after the pipes froze .

    • OwnUp
      March 11, 2014 - 08:45

      I totally agree...she left for 3 weeks in the middle of winter , knowing there was no heat, and blames the government for her frozen pipes??? Come on! People need to take responsibility for their actions, and stop blaming everyone else for their problems.

  • Fed up
    March 11, 2014 - 07:16

    Case by case....someone higher up should straighten out these spelled heads at social assistance. They sit there like a God deciding who will survive and who won't. A young single Mom is offered assistance with getting an apt. The mom searches and finds as much work...all part time...all minimum wage...and soc, asst then won't help at all! If these young Moms lid on their backsides, they will help them. If the try to help out by working ....sometimes 6-7 days a week...plus som evenings...soc.asst withdraws help. They don't reward these girls for trying to help themselves. These big shots drawing in big wages should not be playing God with young lives....and encouraging them to lie around. Someone should change the rules...and perhaps replace some of these Workers who have let position go to their heads!

    • Tired of Supporting
      March 11, 2014 - 08:13

      Maybe these girls, before making the choice to be a single Mom, could make sure that they can support the children that bring into this world. You are right Fed Up, someone should change the rules, and make people responsible for their own lives. The government does owe anyone a living. And as for Kim, although she doesn't work(because of an accident), I assume she is not disabled since she is on welfare instead of disability pension. I agree that shouldn't have paid for it and the damage done is her own responsibility. Im tired of paying for others to live.

    • Give your head a shake
      March 11, 2014 - 12:46

      @Tired of Supporting: Maybe these girls didn't have a say in whether or not they were going to become single moms. Plus, it's not as though they have any other options on the Island. Unless you think most single moms have $1000 lying around to pay for an abortion + transportation to and from another province for the procedure.