Volunteers to the rescue
Much of the money has disappeared but The Hospitality Project hasn't.
The program based at Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church lost $150,000 in federal funding for its homelessness advocacy and referral services in April. Full-time paid staff who helped those who were homeless or in danger of becoming so had to be let go.
But volunteers, new and old, have come to the rescue. They continue to keep the services going in some form or the other, said the project's executive director Jaimie McEvoy, himself cut back to part time because of the funding shortfall.
"The real story is of how people have stepped up," said McEvoy. "The loss of federal funding we had received came quick, and there wasn't a lot of time to make a transition. We lost good people. We lost people who had spent eight or nine years working in New Westminster helping people."
The program runs drop-in service on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings along with limited support through the week. Services on Tuesdays include a toy bank, community kitchen, and a resource office. There's also a food bank on Wednesdays.
But Hospitality Project can't offer as much as it used to.
Helping some people can be a very involved process, he said, in some cases now beyond the program's ability to deliver.
"So when you have someone who is about to become homeless, we still have a resource office, we still have people who can get them help. But for people who need support on a day-to-day basis it can be challenging."
Josephine Selormey hands out apples, juice and other treats to visitors to the Hospitality Project at Sixth Avenue Shiloh Church. The program is continuing on mostly volunteer labour after it lost most of its federal funding. Mario Bartel/NewsLeader
McEvoy said one of the things The Hospitality Project did well was homelessness prevention.
But the funding cuts have made that difficult. He gave an example of a woman about to lose her housing with nowhere to go that she could afford. In the past, the workers could hop on the phone and use their contacts to "make sure someone has a place to land as softly as possible with a chance to get back on their feet," he said. But with the reduced hours it can be difficult to pull off.
McEvoy has been researching other volunteer-based advocacy programs in Canada and the United States to see if their models are adaptable here.
"But that will take time."
So will finding new funding.
"I've concentrated on making it work over the summer and looking at funding over the fall. The top priority is to ensure we can still serve people's needs."
McEvoy's plans include public education on homelessness with workshops, speaking to community groups and conducting tours. To contact The Hospitality Project call 604-522-3443.