07/17/2015 05:45 EDT | Updated 07/17/2016 05:59 EDT

El Jones, Halifax's poet laureate, moving to Iowa for work

Halifax's poet laureate says she is leaving the province at the end of August because she can't find a permanent job in Nova Scotia.

"I need to eat. I need sleep," said El Jones in an interview with CBC News. 

"I'm going to be homeless for the month."

Jones will be leaving Canada to take a writer-in-residence position at the University of Iowa.

"I don't want to leave here. I've poured immense amount of time and energy into my community," she said.

"[But] people here don't want to hire me for whatever reason, or they only want to hire me on contract."

The writer and activist has worked at Acadia University and NSCC. She said it's hard to work in Nova Scotia.

In her case, Jones says she's been working for 16 to 20 hours a day, sometimes for no money.

It makes it even harder to stay, Jones said, when she's offered paying jobs elsewhere.

"People just use you and then you're not worth anything," she said.

"There's an attitude in Nova Scotia that if you're worth anything you wouldn't be here. If you're worth anything you'd be somewhere else. So I think being able to say I went to the States and was offered something makes your value go up. Whereas people should be valuing the work you do every day in your own community. I'm sorry if I sound bitter or angry."

The 'low self-esteem of the Maritimes'

Jones indicated that unemployment is a problem that affects a lot of people in the Maritimes, not just her. 

She calls it the "low self-esteem of the Maritimes."

"There are entire industries that are dead … Overall we are a province that faces high employment and a lack of opportunities for young people. I'm no different than most of the province."

Jones says she'll be sad to leave the children she works with and the inmates she visits. 

"If I could work, I would stay here my whole life," she said.

Jones grew up in Winnipeg, but calls Halifax home. The poet laureate, Halifax's fifth, hopes to one day return to Nova Scotia.

"I've always thought you get from your community and you give to your best capacity. But when opportunities are thrown in your lap, how long can you turn them to beg for opportunities that don't exist here?"