News Local

Transition House funds cut

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today


Transition House will receive about $25,000 less in provincial funding this year.

The decision was made at the county level of government as a result of provincial funding cuts and re-organization.

Transition House provides emergency shelter to people needing it, Northumberland community services and housing director Mark Darroch said in an interview.

For 2013, the provincial government funding flowing through the county will be a flat $164,000 to Transition House, without increases when people stay for longer periods of time. There will also be a $60,000 top-up from Northumberland County, Darroch said.

It will be "about the same funding as last year" when the provincial funding formula is taken into account, he said.

Transition House is the third agency affected by provincial funding cuts and decisions made by the Northumberland County government that directs where these monies will go and what contracts it will fund this year.

Late last year, the Cobourg Salvation Army was told that not all of its operations would receive the same level of provincial funding flowed through the county's social services department. The $101,000 it is receiving for 2013 (including $45,000 for purchase of a delivery vehicle for the Salvation Army's Good Food Box Program and its Furniture and Appliances Program) will be down about $15,000 in its overall service funding allotment from the county in order to help low-income people, Darroch said.

The Salvation Army's Dave Alexander has said that the reduction will mean one person will have to be laid off at the end of June.

A second agency already affected by reductions and changes in provincial funding to the county level of government is The Help Centre.

Its manager, Bill Crosier, issued a media release in early January and in an interview said that $85,000 of his $200,000 operating budget was cut without warning by the county, giving him only about two weeks’ notice. He had to lay off two part-time workers effective Jan. 1 as a result, he said.

The Help Centre is a Northumberland United Way-funded agency and last year received $75,000 from that organization.

"What will happen to people needing help in the community?" Crosier asked at the time.

Darroch outlines a completely different scenario.

While Crosier alleges he received no warning of the funding cuts, Darroch said that he met with Crosier on Oct. 25, 2012 and told him about the "uncertainty" over funding for this year and that it "could affect" The Help Centre. Darroch said he received a e-mail from Crosier thanking him for the meeting.

Crosier was also a participant in a December meeting involving social services agencies in Northumberland who were told about possible funding changes that were coming, Darroch also said.

The county has sent The Help Centre a letter committing $28,000 for this year for its clients needing to pay rents and utilities. (This would reduce the $85,000 funding shortfall by $28,000 for 2013.)

Asked if more social services agencies in Northumberland will receive less county funding in 2013 than in previous years, Darroch replied, "If they haven't heard from us, chances are there will be no increases and certainly not any reductions…. They are fairly safe."

At the same time, however, Darroch said, throughout this whole year his department will be looking at where funding is going and re-evaluating the best way to provide services to low-income people, including the working poor, those on the Ontario Works social services program and those receiving Ontario Disability Support Program financial assistance.

"We're going to be looking at all service agreements" and there will likely be more impacts in 2014, he said.

All of the these changes were precipitated by the county government's response to last July's provincial government budget decision to reduce funding to programs to counteract homelessness across Ontario.

There were five specific programs last year and they were funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Northumberland County received $893,348 for these, some of which went to social services agencies contracted to provide a range of help to low-income people from paying for utilities (heat and hydro), to paying rent arrears or rental deposits, etc.

The provincial change came into effect this year.

Instead of five "buckets" of money there was one "consolidated into the Community Homelessness Preventative Initiative (CHPI) effective Jan. 1, 2013," states a recent media release from Darroch about the situation. The total in that single bucket, however, was just $625,364, or about $268,000 less for 2013 than 2012. The money now comes from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Darroch says that the "county took a proactive approach by meeting with the impacted community partners and providing information on how to best meet increasing service needs with reduced provincial funding."

The plan was made to create one stop shopping at the county and "streamline homelessness services," Darroch stated in the media release.

The new CHPI program means the county social services and housing department will have an increase of about 2,000 Ontario Disability Support cases to administer, in addition to about 950 Ontario Works cases (which could result in about 1,900 people when you consider families) , plus about 2,100 low-income people (which is a guesstimate at this time), he said.

"Changes to funding and service delivery models can be stressful on organizations," the media release from the county also states, "and while the county has no control over provincially initiated changes, we share the concerns of our community partners, including the Northumberland United Way, in serving our residents."

Darroch reiterated that social services agencies in the county are valued and appreciated, and he continues to urge them to work at amalgamations, consolidations and service integrations because there will be no new money from the provincial and federal levels of government and funding is tight at the county and municipal levels.

He also said that while Northumberland County received $223,000 from the provincial government in transitional funding last week, it was negated by the $245,000 loss in funding from Ontario's Children's Services ministry.

In the meantime, Darroch said that "people will be helped."

Anyone can call the central number for assistance 905-372-6846 or toll free 1-800-354-7051. There are six community hubs (one in each of Cobourg, Port Hope, Colborne, Brighton, Roseneath and Campbellford) and there are also two outreach workers who can go to people's homes in certain situations, he said.

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