Saving on the street – a little at a time

Homelessness comes with many challenges. For instance, it’s difficult to make responsible, long-term financial decisions when you’re living day to day. But there are actually a number of ways that Canadians who are homeless or at risk of being homeless can make good decisions for themselves.

Even a person without a home has access to an income, and it’s not just money collected in a cup on the street.

Many homeless Canadians receive money every month from Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program. Even if a person can put just a little away it can help plan for the future, says Peter Tilley, Executive Director at the Ottawa Mission.

The problem is that sometimes even tiny investments aren’t possible for someone who doesn’t have a permanent address.

Homeless Ontarians often don’t have a fixed address, and sometimes no identification, to offer to banks, says Lindy Rosko, senior manager at the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Sometimes banks, such as TD, offer a limited number of accounts for Canadians living in an emergency shelter.

There are some long-term reasons for opening a bank account. Bank fees may seem like a deterrent, but they are much less than the fees charged by businesses such as MoneyMart.

Another issue for those with no money in a bank account is some banks place a three day hold on cashing cheques. Often there are pressing needs for the money that can’t wait three days.

Some shelters, including the Salvation Army and Shepherds of Good Hope run financial programs for clients, such as Sally Anne’s Moneywise. This program is meant to teach financial management skills to clients at risk of homelessness.

While the shelters can’t cash cheques like a real bank, they can help budget and hold funds in a limited capacity.