(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Kelowna man on disability seeks help to beat the heat

Income too stretched to include air conditioning unit

A Kelowna resident living on a disability income feels the province can do more to help those living with limited financial means during the current excessive heat wave.

A letter rejecting his inquiry about funding support to buy an air conditioner unit or fan and instead look for cooling centre resource locations in the city, including Orchard Park Shopping Centre, led the frustrated man to contact Black Press Media.

Brian (not his real name) said last year he was made aware the Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security offered a $100 rebate to buy an air conditioner unit, for those on disability incomes, to combat a heat wave that would claim more than 600 lives last summer across the province.

With another heat wave descending on B.C. this summer, Brian anticipated the same option being available, but he was informed otherwise.

“People living on a disability income don’t have the money to afford buying an air conditioner unit. I don’t think the answer is for everyone on disability to go loiter at the mall to avoid the heat,” he said.

“I am fortunate to live with family in a home with air conditioning but I am furious that people out there are really suffering in this heat, living on disability with no air conditioning when it really gets hot.”

In response to an email submission of questions by Black Press, the ministry responded to Brian’s concerns.

“During the extreme heat dome in 2021 as with other emergency needs, the ministry provided supports to ministry clients, including issuing Crisis Supplements as needed. This allowed people receiving income or disability assistance to purchase fans, and other supplies such as ice and misting bottles,” stated the ministry response.

“These supports continue to be available. A crisis supplement is a one-time payment available to ministry clients who face unexpected emergency needs to prevent imminent danger to their physical health. Access to crisis supplements is available to all clients at all times.”

The ministry also suggested cooling tips beyond finding a cooling centre such as drinking plenty of water, taking cool baths or showers, sleeping in a residence’s coolest room, and seeking cooler, breezier, shaded areas in outdoor spaces.

Brian reiterated the need for the ministry to act in advance, to not wait until a heat dome weather occurrence arrives to provide reimbursement assistance.

“And I would rather than be given $100 rather than get a reimbursement which can take four or five weeks to process in between our monthly cheques. Otherwise, it becomes too little too late if you don’t have the money to pay for it, to begin with,” he said.

In response, the ministry stated actions will be taken in response to a heat warning or extreme heat emergency.

“The ministry is providing clients with information to help them stay cool and safe during hot weather. This includes resources from Health Authorities Municipalities, Emergency Management BC and community agencies, that identify where supports are available and how they can be accessed,” the email said.

In Kelowna, the public cooling centres are located at Parkinson Recreation Centre, Rutland Arena, Rutland Activity Centre and the Capital News Centre.

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