Nanaimo’s Men’s Centre could close without financial aid from the provincial government.
The men’s centre said in an announcement today that it’s time for the province to step up and fund it adequately or it will have to close its doors. It can “no longer function on a song and a prayer.”
The organization has been in the city for more than 15 years, offering men and boys across Vancouver Island and B.C. everything from free counselling services and clothing to programs on suicide prevention, addiction and homelessness.
But it’s also been faced a funding crunch.
Executive director Theo Boere said the organization applies and gets community gaming and other grants and receives donations, but he said it’s never been enough and this year, the organization has had less. He said creating stability is impossible with short-term funding and cuts have had to be made every year.
“At our best we run on a skeleton staff, when we come up against financial challenges we cut into the marrow, we’ll cut programs if we have to, or staff, and that’s difficult. It’s difficult on the people, it’s difficult on the clients because of the lack of continuity,” he said.
The centre met with Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog last November, seeking $400,000 annually to operate and $1 million for a transition house for men fleeing violence, according to Boere.
The centre also proposed having more men’s centres around the province because Boere said there are none in places like Vancouver and Victoria. In the press release, he claims Farnworth committed to working with Krog to solve the long-term financial sustainability problems of the centre but that six months later “nothing significant has happened.”
Krog told the News Bulletin that in fairness, no specific commitments were made and said the centre has relied upon and received, from time to time, gaming funding, which is competitive.
Boere told the News Bulletin the centre is discouraged, burnt out and unsure it can continue without support from the province, and he believes the province has a responsibility to help because its responsible for social programs.
“If the province said “well, we’re not going to fund women’s programs, there’d be a huge outcry,” he said. “We run men’s programs, yet every year we struggle to survive and the province has been pretty meager in their support.”
The Nanaimo Men’s Centre will run out of funding this summer, and at stake, Boere said, is the survival of the centre and whether men in the community will continue to have a resource uniquely for them and that understands their pressures. He himself will consider whether he wants to stay as executive director.
“Unless there is either some significant funding from the province or some other solution brought forward by the community I don’t see how we can continue,” he said.
Krog said he’s been working the last few weeks with the minister’s office and he’s hopeful to get the centre a little bit of money, but not a lot and nothing like $400,000. He doesn’t want the centre to close, he said.
“I agree completely that an organization that serves men is important and I think it’s something that needs to be recognized,” he said. “I think having the organization in Nanaimo has been of use and value and has, I believe, promoted a reduction in violence, domestic violence.”
In an e-mailed statement, Farnworth said he met with the organization last fall and learned more about the work it does to support men on the Island.
“Our government continues to support a continuum of victim service programs available to both men and women across B.C.,” he said. “Staff from my ministry will connect back with this organization in the coming days.”