Anti-poverty advocate Peter Gilmer. Photo by John B. Pluck.
by John B. Pluck
The Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry does not have the staffing capacity to handle the increase in requests for assistance since the Welfare Rights Centre lost its funding, according to the Ministry's director.
“This means that a lot of very vulnerable people will be falling through the cracks,” said Peter Gilmer, anti-poverty minister and advocate of the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.
The closure has contributed to more than doubling the cases that the organization normally handles, said Gilmer.
For the first time in the Anti-Poverty Ministry’s 15 years of operation, a case screening process will have to be implemented. This issue will be on the agenda at the group’s March 19 board meeting.
The Welfare Rights Centre closed its doors on Feb. 25 after losing all of its provincial funding.
In its 36 years of operation, the Welfare Rights Centre provided advocacy, trusteeship and affordable home searching services for people struggling to survive.
The services provided by the Welfare Rights Centre were essential to the less fortunate community, said Gilmore.
Eunice Big Eagle was once a member of the center’s trusteeship program, which provided assistance to people with money management difficulties.
Big Eagle credits the trusteeship program for helping her recognize that she needed to have financial priorities.
“I know I am a better person because of (the trusteeship) program,” said Big Eagle.
She said she was “sad” when she heard the Welfare Rights Centre was closing.
The closure will bring hardship for some of the people who depend on its services, said Big Eagle.
Morris Eagles, the centre's past executive director, is disappointed in the Ministry of Social Services.
Social Services should have consulted with the affected communities before making any decision to withdraw the funding, said Eagles.
“When we talk about terminating the funding for the Welfare Rights Centre it goes well beyond that - it’s terminating the services to people who need it the most,” said Eagles.
Saskatchewan has an overall poverty rate of 12.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
Many of the Centre's clients suffered from addictions and other health issues. Those problems are now going to be intensified, said Eagles.
But Lynn Tulloch, executive director of income assistance at the Ministry of Social Services, said the impact on clients and community-based organizations was carefully considered before cutting the funds.
Tulloch said Social Services was aware that the Welfare Rights closure would create additional demands on CBO like the Anti-Poverty Ministry, but was confident these organizations would be able to fill the gap on a short term basis.
For example the Regina Food Bank has stepped up by launching a housing registry, she said.
A determination of what client services will be provided by other CBO’s will be made by the end of May, said Tulloch.