Halifax poet-comedian says system is failing him

Local Express

Josh Dunn was finally getting paid for his poetry and he didn’t have to rely on his grandmother’s home-cooked meals to help him make ends meet.

Dunn had reason to be optimistic back in August 2015. His application for a $6,000 Arts Nova Scotia grant had been approved, a solid followup to the success of his one-man play in 2013.

His life was moving forward.

But the grant turned out to be something of a curse. On the one hand, it provided three months of meaningful work, but on the other, he was promptly kicked off social assistance.

Dunn would have been entitled to a percentage of his allowance if the government considered the grant part-time work.

He said he lost his appeal to the Community Services Department to be compensated fairly and to remain on income assistance. He ended up having to reapply and was approved, albeit a month later than expected.

After paying $1,500 to an architect for drawings to accompany his poetry, he earned only $1,500 more than if he hadn’t worked and continued to receive his $900-a-month allowance. 

“It kind of scared me. I guess I expected a little more support,” recalled Dunn. “Through my work, I’m raising awareness. I think it’s very important, in general, to show that not only are people living with serious disabilities just like everyone else, quote unquote, but we can be extraordinary.”

To date, the province has provided few details on a four-year, $80-million poverty reduction plan it introduced during the spring election campaign.

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