Needs unmet as 95 social service groups share city funding

The list of nonprofits that can count on City of Ottawa funding each year to run drop-in centers, counseling and other social services has been revamped, but many say the total amount is still a long way from meeting the needs on the ground.

The City of Ottawa will allocate $ 25.8 million in its 2022 budget so that 95 groups can secure predictable annual funding over the next five years. Newcomers to the list are 22 organizations that primarily serve black and indigenous communities, women, youth, or provide food.

Nonprofits that have not received a reliable annual grant have long argued that the city should accept new applications – the list of beneficiaries had remained static since 2012.

When the city finally reworked its community fundraising program, it received many more requests than its typical budget envelope could meet: requests came from 139 organizations for a total of $ 66 million.

It is because more people are housed in precarious conditions or fall between the cracks, that there is an opioid crisis and the needs are more complex and must be met in a culturally appropriate way, explained the executive director of Somerset West Community Health Center, a long-time recipient of city funding.

“It takes a lot more to keep the safety net strong,” said Naini Cloutier. “We need a significant infusion of funding into the sector if we are to improve the quality of welfare.”

Black-led organizations are filling the gaps

Cloutier is pleased that the city has extended funding to groups that are trying new methods of getting food to residents and to groups led by black, Indigenous or other racialized groups.

His health center is involved in the Ottawa Community Food Partnership, which operates community refrigerators and arranges food preparation by restaurants. He will receive $ 100,000 per year.

There are some great programs out there, but often they don’t have that cultural lens, which I think is absolutely essential.– Ken Campbell, Jaku Konbit

The Coalition for Black Mental Health in Ottawa, meanwhile, will receive $ 149,163 per year. It was formed by 20 or more organizations a few years ago with the goal of ensuring that people in distress know where to turn for culturally appropriate help.

Another organization, Jaku Konbit, has been around for two decades but has so far received only a small sum from the city for its Kwanzaa celebration. He will now receive $ 70,000 for his tutoring, mentoring and summer camp for black youth, and to provide programs for black seniors at home during the pandemic.

“There are great programs out there, but often they don’t have that cultural lens, which I think is absolutely essential,” said President Ken Campbell.

Jaku Konbit fills in the gaps and reaches people other agencies have a harder time reaching, he says.

“Ottawa being very multicultural and diverse, it is very important that the source of funding reflects the community,” said Campbell.

Some groups are not on the list

While 22 groups are added, six will lose their Stable City Grant. This includes the Ottawa AIDS Committee, which has received annual funding for almost two decades.

His $ 91,000 from the City of Ottawa went to his drop-in center called “The Living Room” where people living with HIV / AIDS could have a hot meal, use computers or meet with staff one-to-one. head for psychosocial support.

Executive Director Khaled Salam knew there was a risk he might not be successful in the city’s new system.

“We all knew the total amount of money was not increasing, but there were more organizations eligible to apply,” he said.

The organization still receives its core funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health, and he is grateful to the city for providing a year of funding so they can figure out how to make up for the loss.

Khaled Salam says the Ottawa AIDS Committee has used its annual City of Ottawa grant for its drop-in center, but is grateful for a year of funding to try to figure out how to make up for the loss of funding. (submitted by Khaled Salam)

For most of the organizations on the city’s grant list, funding remains the status quo or they will only receive a small increase.

Cloutier of Somerset West had hoped that the City of Ottawa would see the needs of a growing city and try to better match its grants to demand.

The health center has requested $ 3 million to strengthen its counseling services for African and Caribbean populations, its program for Chinese seniors and to extend its opening hours to evenings and weekends. He will receive $ 760,000.

“What we got was exactly the same amount that we got all these years, so it was disappointing,” said Cloutier.

In total, the City of Ottawa’s community funding will increase by $ 1.6 million to reach $ 28.6 million in its 2022 budget, which is the subject of debate this month. Cloutier hopes that the council could still decide to spend more “to really respond to the current crises”.

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