A Nanaimo organization that has helped thousands of people hopes the community can return the favour.
The Nanaimo Citizen Advocacy Association is grappling with a “cash crisis” and “desperate” financial situation, according to executive director Deanna Ward, who says it has to raise $20,000 by mid-February or it will have to close the general advocacy program.
The association has been in Nanaimo for 43 years, offering general and legal advocacy to residents, helping people navigate bureaucracy and connect to local resources. Its general advocacy program is its most popular, sought after by 75 per cent of its clientele, the association reports.
It’s seeking dollars to keep the program going, including a one-time $10,000 grant from the City of Nanaimo and donations through a Go Fund Me page.
The page shows a bumpy transition period after the retirement of a longtime executive director and bookkeeper in 2015 was the start of the NCAA’s challenges. It took time to find replacements who “were a good fit, and opportunities to secure full funding for this year were missed,” it says.
Ward, hired in September, also said the association was overstaffed, and that donations are needed because the number of visits are increasing due to the rising intensity of problems, a result of a local housing issue and addiction.
“This is critically important work. This isn’t fluff stuff,” she said, later adding the issues are about people needing medical treatment, shelter and guaranteed income.
NCAA helps 2,200 people each year at no cost and has an average 11,000 visits.
Anyone can seek aid at the association, but the majority of clients are disabled. Advocates problem solve, can provide advice on tenancy issues and help people with disability and income assistance applications.
Ward recalls one couple, former heroin addicts, who were cut off income assistance because they either couldn’t or didn’t provide documentation when their file came up for review. They’d also been evicted and were living on the streets and didn’t have a steady supply of methadone. Ward said an advocate helped them sign up for a new program that supplied free treatment, get the documentation to reinstate their benefits and find a house. The couple is still clean, in steady housing and managed to buy a car, Ward said.
“We know that if we didn’t exist, if they couldn’t come here, they would be living on the streets still,” she said.
The advocacy association gets funding from the Law Foundation of B.C., Community Living B.C., United Way and gaming commission but dollars aren’t expected until April.
Ward said they need help and need people to stand up and come through for them, including the city.
Susan Carlson, vice-president of the association, said so much would be lost if they don’t get funding.
“How do you resolve these problems that nobody is there to help you with?” she asked.
The fundraising page is at www.gofundme.com/NCAA-S.