Service centres weigh in
By Cheryl Beemer, Sandy Clark, Paul Dishke, Julie Fleet, Kim Fleming, Don Henning, Nancy Legere, Bil Lofthouse and Larry Williamson, The board of directors, CSCHN
May 19, 2010
On behalf of the thousands of clients we serve annually and the hard-working and dedicated staff of the not-for-profit Community Support Centre of Haldimand-Norfolk, (CSCHN) we wanted to say shame on Haldimand County Council- and especially Mayor Marie Trainer and Councillor Buck Sloat- for their recent flip-flop on emergency funding to our agency and the Salvation Army.
Passing a 5-2 motion in favour of funding one week- in the presence of representatives from our two agencies and with assurances that all questions had been answered to ensure an informed decision- and one week later playing what appears to be election-year politics at the expense of our clients- is unconscionable. Not only did these elected officials pull the rug out from under our agencies with ridiculous excuses that had already been addressed, they did so when no one from our two agencies was present to respond to these concerns.
The impact of this decision is that our Centre will have to reduce already-skeletal staffing and service by the fall, and possibly close by the end of the year.
Our two small, not-for-profit agencies- which receive virtually no ongoing government funding- provide residents and families of our County with essential and emergency services to help support them through difficult and unusually stressful times. Our community has had more than its fair share of hard times in the past four years, and Council has completely washed its hands when it comes to recognizing that exceptional increase in need, choosing to do nothing about it and preferring instead to blame the province for not doing enough.
We beg to differ: the province has already shown that it has limited time for Haldimand County. It is absolutely Council’s responsibility to take the time to understand and respond to the changing needs of its residents, including going beyond simply funding ‘mandated human services’ (through the Haldimand-Norfolk Health and Social Services Department).
Since 2006, the CSCHN has seen a 200% increase in the need for essential services (e.g. food, housing, clothing), job search assistance and counselling. We have worked with many of our on-site agency collaborators (including the Caledonia & District Food Bank, Community Addiction and Mental Health Services, Haldimand-Norfolk R.E.A.C.H., Haldimand & Norfolk Women’s Services, Helping Hands for Haldimand, the Dunnville Salvation Army and others) to meet those exceptional needs.
As well during that time, we have received some one-time support from the provincial government (specifically related to the land claim dispute). In the past four years, Haldimand has benefitted from millions of dollars of additional provincial funding to support our region. However, the County, in its infinite wisdom, has chosen to invest all of that additional money directly into infrastructure, not people.
In early February, the CSCHN’s volunteer board of directors approached Haldimand County with a request for $50,000 in emergency funding and the desire to work with the County to more effectively lobby the provincial and federal governments to increase funding for local health, social and community services such as ours. We suggested that the Salvation Army- located at the other end of the County and providing a comparable service to ours- be considered in this exceptional request.
During the course of two months, our staff provided Council with a detailed budget of how the monies requested would be spent, pages of rationale regarding the community need and answered dozens of questions related to the legitimacy of our request, the fairness of providing funding to one agency over another, how we do business, our ability to ensure these monies would actually go towards helping our fellow neighbours and more. In the end, it appears politics won out instead of policy.
Mayor Trainer and Councillor Sloat—who had originally voted in favour of the funding—chose to play fast and loose with the fortunes of our clients, implying that since the CSCHN couldn’t guarantee that all of the $50,000 would benefit only Haldimand County residents (by our own admission, approximately 2% of our 22,000 annual client visits come from communities neighbouring Haldimand) they couldn’t support the request.
Councillor Don Ricker added insult to injury, questioning the integrity of our two organizations by saying we “could use the money as we wish.” We would be interested to hear what Councillor Ricker thinks we’re going to use the money for, if not for our clients.
Those of us who believe that this is a caring community—and want to ensure this continues to be the case—might want to keep this in mind at election time.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Service centres weigh in