Stepping up

By Jenn Watt

Feb. 7 2017

Kudos to county council for stepping up last week and recommending $25000 be dedicated over two years to the YWCA women’s shelter in Haliburton County (called HERS).

As many will know from the YWCA’s presence and media coverage over the years the rural safe space has helped hundreds of women in Haliburton County get out of dangerous situations.

Last year 124 individual women in Haliburton County were helped by the YWCA with more than 1200 crisis calls.

We learned recently that in the winter of 2016 HERS was closed because there wasn’t enough funding to meet the unanticipatedly high need.

The YWCA was intending to go from council to council asking for $5000 each in one-time funding. Minden Hills had already said yes with a conversation around provincial downloading and cuts to social services.

YWCA staff member Jen Cureton told council that cuts were made in the 1990s and haven’t been restored in subsequent years. Currently 61 per cent of its funding comes from the government with the rest coming in through donations. (Most of the donations used in Haliburton County are actually gathered in Peterborough.)

The organization needs some $120000 over two years for a project that will include a study to determine how to continue providing the services in rural areas. There is $30000 left to fundraise.

With council’s budget recommendation (assuming it is passed) the YWCA can be assured the project will go forward and that there is a shelter for the next two years. That decision will bring with it an incredible impact for the women of this county.

Not only does it mean those facing violence will have somewhere local to go (when the funding ran out in 2015/16 those women were assisted in fleeing to facilities in Peterborough and City of Kawartha Lakes) but that the population at large can feel more secure.

But this doesn’t solve the problem – that funding is woefully short from the province especially in rural areas.

From education to health care to employment opportunities rural areas receive less services from the government and providing shelter for women is another example.

County councillors did precisely what they should have in funding the YWCA – stepping in and providing a service for the local population – however this is not council’s funding responsibility.

This money should be coming from the province. Not just 61 per cent but enough to ensure core services are never removed from our county again.