I don’t think it is safe to drive a car designed for power steering with the power steering purposely disabled. I woulnd’t risk it myself. But that’s just me.
Usually when the power steering fluid is leaking, fixing the problem is just replacing one of the rubber hoses. They often separate a bit at one of the connectors just from the various flexing movements they go through as you steer the steering wheel. One thing you can do to minimize this in the future is try to avoid letting the steering hit the “stops”, all the way right or left. That can stress the hoses.
That won’t help you now in any event. This problem is usually easy and inexpensive to fix in econoboxes like yours. I think your mechanic should do a visual and figure out if a power steering hose is leaking. If so, get a quote to have it replaced. I thinnk you’ll find fixing it is affordable.