REPORTING · 11th July 2013
Kitimat Community Services received a surprise on Monday, July 8th when they arrived at the office. That night, Denise O’Neill was set to present to Council about the Kitimat Food Share.
“I walked into the Work BC Centre today to find out that 16 people were at our doors at 8:30 in the morning, had come from elsewhere around the province looking for work this weekend and came into the Work BC Centre and were asking for a soup Kitchen,” said O’Neill.
She expressed the last time she was at Council, the numbers at the Work BC Centre were down, and more people were turning up at the Kitimat Food Share. She was there to ask for financial support for Food Share.
The people were directed to the Food Share where they were given food bags of Sandwiches and Fruit. O’Neill stated this is one of their concerns, they do not have access to a full kitchen for a soup kitchen and the closest soup kitchen is down the road in Terrace.
“We need to keep Food Share open so we can continue to feed people as they continue to come through,” said O’Neill.
She added the Kitimat Food Bank was not open today because it was a Monday. They see a variety of people and issues coming through their Food Share. They did a survey of 25 people coming through Food Share in May.
“We asked them what their experience was like in terms of moving, the reasons they were moving, what their income was, what their income sources were, how much money they had left after they paid rent, what their gender breakdown was, their employment, their age, their dependants and attached the information I provided you, you’ll see what the outcome was,” said O’Neill.
They discovered the people were moving between 1-4 time, they moved because they were evicted, their building was sold or they could not pay the rent. Their incomes ranged from $500-$1500, only 7 of the 25 were employed and after they paid their rent, most of them had less than $250 left to pay utilities and live off of. Most of the people were single mothers. 17 were unemployed or about to be unemployed and the largest number of people were over 50 years. A majority were blended families.
“In order to keep our space open, where we can receive people and assist them and filter them through the resources in the community, I am here to ask for financial support to keep the Food Share Space open,” said O’Neill.
She said they have four volunteers. Two are leaving having found work and one is taking the summer off. She expressed they cannot extend themselves anymore because of the contracts they have to maintain. The Food Share does not receive core funding so it either receives assistance or it does not. She pointed out the name of the Kitimat Community Services probably needs to be changed because they do not offer every service which is being looked for.
“We only provide the funding which we receive through programs. We don’t have any core funding to keep our doors open to do community development work,” said O’Neill.
She expressed they are stealing hours away from other budgets to provide the staffing for the program. She expressed she is constantly swinging back and forth from crisis situations and if there was core funding to keep Community Services open, a portion of wages and time could cover food share.
She reminded Council they are moving into a phase of Economic Development and they do not know what will happen. She stated the 16 people at the door could not go to the restaurants and purchase meals; they are camping in their vehicles, on the river and only have enough money to stay for a week and look for work.
“When they discover through the Employment Centre That the high paying jobs has a process to apply for the high paying jobs, including unionization, etc. etc. allot of people are very surprised with what they are faced with and again, it’s kind of that false perception of coming in, landing in Kitimat and the same day, going to work,” said O’Neill.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan wanted to know how much O’Neill was asking for. The response was: $127,476 which will carry the program forward for two years with two half time people rather than volunteers.
Councillor Phil Germuth wanted to know how other programs are funded in other communities. He was told it varies between things including Government Funding, Corporate Funding and Municipal Funding. He asked if any funding came from a letter they sent to the government. O’Neill explained nothing would come from the letter until June 2014. Another option was to have Government representatives come to Kitimat and learn what the needs were.
Councillor Mary Murphy stated in other communities, it is a religious committee which takes on this type of project and it is run by volunteers. “Nobodies stepped up to the plate to do that here,” said Murphy.
O’Neill stated the work which is done by the Food Bank does is important for the community but it is not the same as what they do. The Food Share does more than hand out food. They get to know the people who come into their doors, find out what their needs are, take them to the hospital, refer them to addiction workers and even buy them a bus ticket.
“We don’t just hand them a bag of food and tell them to go to the river and stay. We find out a little bit about them, where are you from? Do you need a phone? Do you have a way to get back? Can we help you with a phone card? Can we help you with this? Through some of my other budgets, we can assist people. We can tie it too employment. We’re not just handing out food,” said O’Neil. “The work we do is a little different.”
O’Neill explained they are teaching people how to grow potatoes in buckets. They are showing how one potato could lead to ten pounds of potatoes, a form of food security. They are also teaching people that celery grows in dirt from scraps.
“We are teaching them to fish, we are not just handing them fish,” said O’Neill.
Germuth wanted to provide some money for now and try to lobby some out of the government. He stated he did not want to start a precedent so the Government turns them down because they are doing. He wanted to know how much money would carry the Food Share through 4-6 months.
O’Neill agreed. If Council could give her a cushion, she could apply for gaming funds in August or October. Council crunched numbers. Feldhoff put a motion on the floor to grant the Food Share $50,000 to take the Kitimat Community Services Society to take them through 2013 and into 2014.
“They presented the argument fairly clearly. They requested the budget that takes them to April 30th, 2015. I think that we go through an annual budgeting exercise and my preference would be to provide them with sufficient funding from the remainder of this year and into the next few months until the budget gets underway next year,” said Feldhoff.
He expressed the money would come from the envelope they have earmarked for social programs. Later this year, they will lobby the government.
“In the meantime, Madam Mayor, there are things which we need to talk to the Provincial Government about, Infrastructure needs, Social Service’s needs, we have a number other needs and hopefully, we’ll get a positive response so the local taxpayer will be feeling less of a pinch in the future, this is something which should be addressed by the Province because they are being sent here and encouraged from other parts of the province,” said Feldhoff.
He added it is taking the government too long to get money flowing after the election. He told the Mayor the money would take them to the end of 2013 and the extra money will allow for a few months of 2014 where they could grant more money during the 2014 budget.
“$50,000 allows this program to continue Madam Mayor,” said Feldhoff.
O’Neill told Council it would give them the amount of time they need. Germuth asked for an amendment where Council lobby as many groups as they can. Feldhoff told him it was consistent with the motion. Murphy stated Council lobbies the government for Social Housing, Social Services, Hospital and they do that on a regular basis and they will do it again.
Councillor Edwin Empinado agreed with the work which the Kitimat Community Services do and wanted to know what the costs are. He also wanted to know the skills which are needed by the people who come to town. “There are a lot of jobs in here, but I’m still wondering why there are people who are unemployed?” asked Empinado.
O’Neill stated there is a disconnect between the skills and what industries are looking for. There are also barriers which unemployed people bring when they look for work. This could include attitude, life problems and history of violence and abuse. She suggested bringing Council to Work BC for a walk through and ask questions of the frontline workers there.
With no more questions, the motion to give $50,000 to the Food Share Program and lobby the government was called and carried.
Is talks of a Shelter next?
Comment by TheGal on 6th August 2013
Its good to see that Council is putting some town money to good use. Unfortunately, they will need more money next year to feed the numerous people in this town that will be stuck paying increased rent and the rise of homeless due to lack of accomodations. Should a shelter be the next topic in the works? Might be something to think of real quick with winter only a couple months away. Guaranteed it WILL be brought up when women and children wind up on the street
and overcrowding at an already womans shelter tells you something. Guess council and the town
doesnt think of all other factors surrounding
billion dollar companies take over of a
community. Maybe the community and the
companies should be more supportive of the low
income group of individuals that work but now
cant afford the increased rent. Maybe building more housing and not playing up the greedy,
hissy fitting property owners in town worried
about the value of their properties. Only when
the homeless start breaking into your homes and
start sleeping in your yards, then this town will start to listen.