Taking a Stand Against Exploitation

My apologies for having been absent from the blog, I am in the final throes of my dissertation, and am quite busy with revisions.  The good news is I will have a lot to share from this soon.

Many of you are probably familiar with cheque cashing/payday loan businesses.  These businesses prey upon those with limited resources with the offer of ready cash.  In particular, cheque cashing is used frequently by people experiencing homelessness who are refused bank accounts but given social assistance cheques.  In this way, these businesses are making money of the very poorest in our communities.  This businesses and their challenges are actually well documented in this wikipedia article.

This issue recently hit the news in London, Ontario when one such business was opened in the same building (The Market Tower) as the Ontario Works (social assistance) offices.  To add insult to injury, this business is owned by the husband of our former mayor (who I supported), Tim Best.  There was good coverage at the time of the opening, but with no real response from Mr. Best, the London Homeless Coalition decided to take action and write a letter to the London Free Press, Mr. Best, and Downtown London.  You can see the Free Press coverage here.

I’m glad that the predatory/exploitative nature of these businesses is getting coverage.  I am dismayed by the lack of interest Mr. Best seems to be taking in addressing our concerns.  I should note that we sent a letter to Mr. Best, but the Free Press got to him before our letter (having received theirs by email), so his comment is quite simply that he hasn’t heard from us.  Hopefully this will lead to continued dialogue of the issue in the community.

2 thoughts on “Taking a Stand Against Exploitation

  1. First – I absolutely agree that cheque cashing & pay-day loan businesses by nature exploit those who are most financially desperate.
    But you have raised an interesting point about the homeless. If banks will not give them accounts because they do not have a fixed address, then what other choices to they have for cashing their social assistance cheques? Do they literally have no options other than a cheque cashing service?

    • Good question, Zoe. Most of the other options involve a service worker advocating on behalf of the individual. So, the Bank of Nova Scotia downtown will cash cheques if it is accompanied by a letter from the Ontario Works officer. The London InterCommunity Health Centre (LIHC) has a relationship with TD at Dundas and Lyle, who will open an account for a homeless person if they are accompanied by an LIHC worker. I imagine that other banks have similar agreements with other agencies. However, there needs to be more education so that all Ontario Works know these options are available and can refer people to them, and that the homeless individuals know of them as well. Secondly, more advocacy needs to be done with the banks so that more of them will do things like this. Unfortunately, most of the cash chequing businesses are part of chains owned by the banks.

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