Whitehorse Daily Star

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MONEY URGENTLY NEEDED – Barbara McInerney, the executive director of the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society, takes part in last Thursday’s rally outside the Yukon legislature. Inset Clarissa Wall

Funding woes creating ‘crisis’: society

As the Yukon government points to a health care review aimed at finding “efficiencies” across its department, at least one of the territory’s 826 societies is worried a lack of funding is making it difficult to operate.

By Palak Mangat on March 11, 2019

As the Yukon government points to a health care review aimed at finding “efficiencies” across its department, at least one of the territory’s 826 societies is worried a lack of funding is making it difficult to operate.

The review was at least in part the reason given for requesting a more broad look at what services and who the clients are, at the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society, Barbara McInerney, its executive director, said in an interview Friday afternoon.

The group runs both Betty’s Haven and Kaushee’s Place, which offer housing to children and women fleeing domestic violence – something that is a sensitive topic, she said.

“It’s an extremely stressful time; it’s been so for two years,” McInerney told the Star, adding that the group has been in operation for decades.

“I don’t know how we got here.”

According to its site, Kaushee’s Place acts as a free-of-charge transition home for women and children of all ages. It features a shared kitchen and living room, nine bedrooms and a playroom.

Betty’s Haven is a second-stage housing complex with 10 units where women who have stayed at Kaushee’s Place can apply to live for a maximum of 18 months.

It comes complete with a communal kitchen and in-house programming, and residents pay social housing rates for one to three apartments.

“We have jumped through every hoop,” McInerney said of getting their hands on more funding.

“No, we’re never going to give up women’s identity. We are never going to give up or require people to prove that they have been assaulted.”

That was a request made by the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) to the group, she said.

The department quizzed Kaushee’s on how many are repeat clients in efforts to understand the systemic reasons and look at the staffing model, among other things.

It comes as the department pushes forward on its comprehensive health care review, an action sparked in part by the September 2017 delivery of the financial advisory panel final report to the governing Liberals.

That included suggestions on “how to improve the Yukon government’s financial outlook,” with the review is expected to wrap up later this year.

The society received $1.474 million from the department in 2018-19, HSS spokesperson Clarissa Wall said this morning.

For the 2019-2020 year, it will be getting a similar figure plus a two per cent cost of living increase.

By way of comparison: the old Salvation Army Center of Hope, which YG took over earlier this year, received $1.2 million in funding via a 31-month contract (working out to $100,000 per month).

McInerney isn’t a stranger to that takeover nor to the overall review.

“We understand that fiscal responsibility and efficiency is extremely important and taxpayers’ dollars are important,” she said.

“In that spirit, we want to fully participate (in the review),” she added.

That includes determining details of what the scope of the review is, specific timelines and how long it could be, she noted.

But the struggle around the lack of funding is not a surprise for her nor the board, she added.

“We have used up every bit of surplus that we have; we’re in a deficit this fiscal year.”

Not only has that left workers worried, but McInerney herself wonders what that could mean for the organization’s future.

“I want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with staff on providing excellent services to women who are fleeing violence and support their children,” she said.

“And anything that sounds like we are going to get divided and conquered, concerns us.”

She worried about the possibility of workers also being “actively recruited” for YG roles that could see them get paid more.

That’s especially a worry after YG’s takeover of the old Sally Anne, now dubbed the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter. At least one of the positions as a shelter support worker, as advertised last December, pays between $30 and $35 hourly.

YG will now operate that building for a period of six months, but it will not rule out either way on the possibility that a different group or NGO could take over at the end of that half-year.

“We’ve seen this coming; our finance people have been saying if this is the status quo, we will be in a crisis,” added McInerney, noting that its funding woes date back years.

Meanwhile, as of Friday afternoon, there were 826 active societies in the territory, a Department of Community Services spokesperson confirmed late last week.

That number is a “moving target” so new NGOs can be added to the list regularly.

According to HSS Minister Pauline Frost, who was questioned on funding during last Thursday’s question period, about 33 of those fall within her department.

“Part of the health care system review encompassed reviewing efficiencies and services of many of those NGO groups,” the minister told the legislature.

“What I want to highlight is that none of the NGO groups’ funding has been cut. We’ve stabilized the funding.”

She likened the government’s request to NGOs to “align with that model of efficiencies and looking at performance updates.”

McInerney’s frustration was echoed by Liz Hanson of the Yukon NDP, who took Frost to task during Thursday’s question period.

“For the third year in a row, this government has forced NGOs to accept one-year, rather than three-year, funding agreements,” Hanson said.

“This government talks a lot about efficiency and improvement management, so why can’t they understand that one-year agreements make it difficult, if not impossible, for NGOs to focus on the work they need to do?”

Frost countered by committing to “ensure efficiencies for Yukoners.”

The minister also cited funding in 2011 for Kaushee’s Place at $1.132 million, whereas currently, it sits at $1.474 million.

“As we indicated to them in recent telephone calls and in recent meetings, we are giving them the funding they have requested for this year,” Frost said. That request was “to look at increases in supports for staffing.”

The department could not confirm exactly what the request from the society was for this story.

Frost did say of Kaushee’s Place that “we have increased their budget by two per cent.”

Wall noted this morning that two per cent (reflective of the cost of living increase) was on top of the $1.474 million the society as a whole will get for the 2019-2020.

That $1.474 million is a figure that has not changed from the total funding it was given in 2018-2019.

McInerney has estimated publicly that more than $500,000 in funding is needed to stay afloat.

She joined a number of protestors at a rally last Thursday afternoon, including those supporting laid-off workers at Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services, and added then that the group would not be able to “make the fiscal year of 2019-2020.”

Comments (3)

Up 1 Down 2

Jack C. on Mar 15, 2019 at 2:38 pm

The Liberals are doing so well with all these groups it's amazing. They seem natural to efficiency.

Up 15 Down 2

My Opinion on Mar 11, 2019 at 9:15 pm

The cupboard is bare guys. As the Liberals run this country into the ground there will be nothing left so get used to it. No industry no taxes, no taxes no money, no money no Social Programs. Careful for what you wish for.

Up 13 Down 9

My Opinion on Mar 11, 2019 at 9:06 pm

"one of it's 826 Societies and NGO's.
There is your problem, this has to stop. There is no money left for those that need it, it is all sucked up in wages for NGO's.

Another name that drives me nuts is Not For Profit as though that makes it Holier then Thou. Maybe if they were for Profit someone would be watching the expenses.

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