Saskatoon’s Friendship Inn stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of volunteer hours due to provincial cuts to a program allowing people to work off parking and traffic fines.
The province indicated at budget time tickets would no longer be payable through the fine options program, administered through the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan.
The program placed community agencies on a list with people then able to choose a place to work off their fines at a rate of $10 an hour.
The cut to the program throws thousands of hours of volunteer labour into doubt for dozens of agencies across the province.
In Saskatoon, executive director Sandra Stack said the Friendship Inn benefits to the tune of about 15,000 to 20,000 hours of volunteer work each year.
That works out to about 10 volunteers coming in every day to help turn out meals for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
“I don’t know what we’ll do,” Stack said Tuesday on the Brent Loucks Show, “The three staff in the kitchen will be having to work extra hard that’s for sure, because we are used to having 15 to 20 people in the kitchen to put out the 1,000 meals that we produce a day.”
Stack said she’s not aware of the timeline for when the cut will take effect, but added she wasn’t impressed with the province’s rationale – the government projects savings of between $160,000 and $220,000 by forcing people to pay fines rather than work them off.
“What is the point? Because (the program) saves us $200,000 and we don’t have that in our budget. It costs $5,000-a-day to run the Friendship Inn,” she said.
Stack noted beyond the help with day-to-day operations, many of the volunteers who’ve come through the door end up staying on as long-term helpers. She said a few have even become full-time employees.
“After 50 hours, that’s a well-trained staff member. We put those people right to work,” she said.
Stack said for now, all she can do is hope people in the community will step up to help out if the program can’t be saved.
The John Howard Society of Saskatchewan published information about the fine options program to its website on Monday. The society runs the program in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon.
For the 2016-17 fiscal year, the society reported the following results:
- Regina: 984 Traffic Safety Act & Parking Ticket Placements, on 1301 Fines. Community Service Hours 27,296. There are 44 Community Placement Agencies in Regina.
- Saskatoon: 2127 Traffic Safety Act & Parking Ticket Placements, on 2,376 Fines. Community Service Hours 52,170. There are 51 Community Placement Agencies in Saskatoon.
- Moose Jaw: 167 Traffic Safety Act & Parking Ticket Placements, on 231 Fines. Community Service Hours 5,186. There are 17 Community Placement Agencies in Moose Jaw.