YWCA SafeSpace not sustainable, reports says
HERS, the Haliburton Emergency Rural SafeSpace in Minden, needs a different operating model, and more money, if it is to continue offering its services.
Jennifer Cureton, director of philanthropy and communications for YWCA Peterborough Haliburton visited Haliburton County councillors during their Jan. 24 meeting to update them on a sustainability study on the facility that the organization undertook last year.
HERS is a safe haven for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. The facility was closed from November of 2015 through March 2016 due to usage outpacing financial resources and subsequently the YWCA launched a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $120,000 to help keep the space open for two years, and conduct the study.
“There were a couple of key findings,” Cureton said. “The first is that the service we provide in Haliburton County is vital.”
In 2016, the organization helped 124 individual women in Haliburton County, fielding more than 1,200 crisis calls and conducting some 670 outreach counsel sessions. Cureton told councillors that demand has continued to grow.
Another finding of the study is that the service has to change, or be enhanced.
“The Haliburton services, without significant changes, are unsustainable,” Cureton said. “So, that last point is something that we’ve been sort of grappling with and trying to wrap our heads around.”
The organization has been in touch with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, which is its main funder.
“They are committed to not letting us close,” Cureton told council. “That’s important for you all to know; it’s important for us to know.”
Possible service model changes will require feasibility studies. One would be changing HERS from a safe space – it’s open on an as-needed basis and provides living space for two women and their children – to a 24-hour-a-day shelter. Another option the YWCA is investigating is to change the facility to limited time housing with a rent-geared-to-income system.
Cureton pointed out that providing services in rural areas is more expensive, because a sparse population is spread out, meaning counsellors have to drive long distances to see clients.
Even with ongoing fundraising – Haliburton County gave the YWCA a grant of $25,000 over two years during its 2016 fundraising campaign – there is a projected deficit for the current fiscal year or $26,000.
There is a projected deficit of nearly $135,000 for the next fiscal year.
“In the meantime, we have received a little bit of additional funding from the ministry to keep going,” Cureton said. “I know that’s not a lot of answers for you today, but that’s where we stand and that’s what we’re working on.”
“The elephant in the room is base funding and it continues to be base funding,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin, indicating the ministry needs to provide more money.
Minden Hills Deputy Mayor Cheryl Murdoch told her to return to council if the situation got desperate, and that never again should the facility be shut down.
“This is a great service to our area, it’s definitely needed,” Murdoch said. “If you get critical, you need to come to this council, and the four municipal councils. That should not happen again.”