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Between a rock and a hard place

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Imagine you are a skilled handyman but you can’t find work anywhere.

Now add in a family, including a wife and three children to feed, and a set of circumstances where you fail to qualify for any unemployment benefits.

What would you do?

Such is the quandary facing Ivan Sieveking, an Emo man who has been out of work since the middle of March.

“I’ve had to sell my rings and watch to eat,” said Sieveking, who came to the Times office earlier this month desperate to tell his story.

Originally from Chile, Sieveking came to Canada in 1986, first landing in Vancouver. Since then, he has moved with his family across the country, eventually settling in Kingston, Ont. before coming to Rainy River District last October.

Currently living in Emo, he had done several temporary jobs--including carpentry, insulation injection, cleaning, and production line work at companies such as Nor-Fab--before falling into his “dry spell.”

“Before I came here, I had enough money to get by just in case I had to look for job,” said Sieveking. “But now, there is still no jobs available.”

Sieveking has sought help from Human Resources and Development Canada and “Ontario Works” but found he doesn’t qualify for assistance for either one.

Seeking to claim unemployment insurance, Sieveking did not have the 910 work hours per year needed to qualify (he had worked only 610 hours between March, 1998 and April, 1999 .

“When I ask, ‘Where do I go now,’ they say go to [‘Ontario Works‘],” he related.

HRDC staffer Diane Oliver confirmed that, in a case like Sieveking’s, it is common practice to recommend the person to “Ontario Works.”

“When I go to [‘Ontario Works’], they say they can’t help me either,” he lamented. “They say, ‘You’re income claimed on your income statement exceeds your ‘Ontario Works’ budget for April, 1999.”

“Now, I don’t have the money and I’m out of a job,” he remarked. “Who can help me? How can I pay my rent?”

When contacted, “Ontario Works” here said that a case like Sieveking’s was “not uncommon,” and that the most they could if someone failed to qualify for welfare benefits is keep looking for a job, and perhaps ask for food and clothing from the local Salvation Army.

Sieveking has been insistent in his search for work, and holds no grudge with the social services.

“I go back to unemployment and ‘Ontario Works’ two, three times. I understand the rules but I have to try to find a way,” he stressed.

One lead Sieveking had on a job was at the Globeco plant in Rainy River, where he had worked while it was under construction last year. But since the plant has not yet gone into operation, he can’t bank on getting work there in the near future.

“I’m worried about how long it may take for them to open--maybe someone will change their mind soon?” he related.

No one from Globeco was available for comment by press time.

A proud man, Sieveking admitted that even going to see if he qualified for welfare was not an easy choice for him to make but one of desperation.

“I don’t want to be living on welfare. I am a hard worker, and I want to be the one to make the money that feeds my family,” he said.

Although he did not want to get his family involved in this article, he did mention that he feared that one of his children, who is attending college, may have to drop out of school if he is unable to find work soon.

Sieveking stressed his family was his first priority, and his only reason for working.

“I can go to the bush or the mountains, and live without electricity, but you see I have a family. I know my responsibility.

“I don’t want anyone to give me money--I don’t want to live with that on my conscience,” he confessed. “All I want to know is if somebody out there can give me a chance.”

Anyone who knows of a suitable job opening in fields such as warehouse work, inventory, production line, welding, or woodworking can contact Sieveking at 482-1727.

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