After one year of offering the homeless a warm place to get breakfast, Our Place Society will have to end its early-morning operation if new funding doesn’t come forward.
“I’m hoping the money comes before that to keep me going,” executive director Rev. Al Tysick said. “Right now I haven’t got any commitments to continue to fund it.”
Saanich council this week approved its annual community grants. Notably absent was Our Place, which received $27,438 last year but didn’t ask for any financial assistance this year.
“(Last year) was a one-time grant to get them through some late-night openings that (Victoria mayor) Dean Fortin had arranged and we agreed to do a one-time funding of it,” Mayor Frank Leonard said. “They didn’t come back and ask, nor did the mayor of Victoria, so I assumed they resolved their funding issues.”
In January 2010, Victoria provided a $90,000 grant for Our Place to open at 7 a.m. rather than 9 a.m., Monday through Friday. Neighbouring municipalities agreed to share in the cost contribution and the province kicked in $60,000. Since then, both the city and United Way have stepped up with additional grants when Our Place funding ran out sooner than expected.
As the early-morning breakfast program passed its one-year anniversary, municipal funding stopped. While Fortin championed the pilot project, he also made it clear that homelessness is a provincial responsibility.
“It was our hope that by providing seed funding that … the province would step up and fund it,” Fortin said. “It’s certainly not something that municipalities can fund social services on an ongoing basis. We don’t have the tax revenue or the responsibility.”
To date, the province has not promised to step up. Its operating agreement with Our Place expires within the month.
“I’m hoping when we talk about the contract, the breakfast program gets rolled into that. But there are no guarantees.”
In 2008-09, the province agreed to provide $500,000 annually to fund the drop-in centre from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to a provincial spokesperson. However, the agreement came with a “mutual understanding that additional funding for extended hours would come from other funding sources.”
Leonard said he would consider helping finance the breakfast program, so long as it was again done jointly with neighbouring municipalities. “It serves a great regional need.”