Metro/Graham Lanktree Members of Ottawa's branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now protest the elimination of Ontario's Community Start Up benefit which helped poverty stricken people with disabilities keep their homes.

People with disabilities will be made homeless and potentially cost the city money, said an Ottawa community group Friday as they protested the province’s elimination of the Community Start Up fund.

“If the funds are cut, there are going to be a lot of homeless people,” said Michelle Walrond, a former recipient of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit of the province’s plan to eliminate it. “It would have cost the city of Ottawa about three times more to support me in a homeless shelter than it cost to help me out with the Ontario Disability Support Program.”

Walrond, who said she has chronic pain and arthritis through her spine and lower back, reports the fund helped her survive by the skin of her teeth when she couldn’t pay her bills. The program helps those on provincial disability support who need to move to escape abuse or face having their heat, hydro or water cut off with $800 over 24 months and $1,500 if they have children under 18.

More than 16,000 people turn to the fund every month, said Ottawa’s branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The $114 million benefit is being cut in Jan. 2013 and will be replaced with the new $63 million Integrating Housing and Homelessness Support.

The province of Ontario is in a struggle to pay down its $13 billion deficit and said the new funding program will “improve cost-effectiveness.”

The cuts were announced in Ontario’s 2012 budget.

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