Community health organizations in Saskatoon call the health region’s cuts to the community grant program an insult.
“We felt disrespected and negated with the suddenness of this action just before the application deadline,” said YWCA executive director Barb Macpherson.
The cuts to the grant program come as the Saskatoon Health Region attempts to balance a projected $45 million deficit this year.
But Macpherson, along with a dozen other community health groups, believes the decision is short-sighted and community grants should be the last thing they cut.
“Once again people who suffer the most in our society are the ones who get left behind, out of the loop,” said Vanessa Charles co-chair of the Anti-Poverty Coalition. “We’re talking about $200,000 which is an awful lot of money to a person like me, but pocket change when looking at the big picture.”
News of the health region’s cuts to the community grant program came Nov. 17 and then on Nov. 25, just 48 hours before the application deadline for 2016 grants, the program was pulled, leaving dozens of organizations in financial limbo, including groups like the Mother’s Centre.
Sandra Roe is a hostess at the Mother’s Centre in Saskatoon, a mother-centered support services group that provides counselling, breast-feeding support and relationship-building opportunities for moms of all ages.
“This program helped me crawl out of my shell and the ladies were very supportive and with the health grant they paid the majority of the rent so without that there’s no Mother’s Centre and I’m out of a job and so are a lot of wonderful ladies and all the women that come here are gone and they lose out,” Roe said.
The health region grant to the Mother’s Centre subsidized their rent to the tune of $30,000, so they only had to raise between $4,000-$5,000 to cover the rest. Now, without a grant in 2016, Roe didn’t need to explain the difficulty of raising $34,000 year after year.
“We’re doing some door-knocking right now looking for donations to keep the place open and we’re offer tax receipts,” Roe said, adding it’s hard to say how long they will remain open. “We have a little bit of funds for a little longer but then we don’t know.”
Other organizations that rely on health region community grants include the Elizabeth Fry Society, the foot clinic at the Lighthouse Supported Living Centre, CHEP Good Food, Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Program and many more.