Concerns that clients are being barred from the Salvation Army have been circulating, said Pauline Frost, minister of the Department of Health and Social Services, raising questions as to whether the organization has been delivering adequate programming during the day.
“Those are things we want to correct, and we want to do it soon. We have one facility in the city, so we have to do the right thing and that’s to hold the Salvation Army to account as we’ve written into our contribution and funding agreement,” she said on Oct. 9.
Last year, the department signed an agreement with the Salvation Army worth $3.1 million to deliver emergency shelter, transitional housing, and drop-in meal and activity programs, according to a copy of the document.
It notes that the hours of the drop-in program are between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
She said her department will continue to push the organization to deliver services that were signed off on “in good faith.”
“If, for some reason, those obligations (are not met), as they’ve been legally bound by the contribution in the contract we’ve signed with them, then we will have some serious discussions with the Salvation Army,” Frost said.
Executive Director Ian McKenzie said there are times when service suspensions are imposed, but that is usually due to problematic behaviours that pose a risk to staff or other clients – violence, sexual assault, extortion, for instance.
“Where it presents risk to others in the facility,” he said.
Medical issues have also caused some clients to be removed, McKenzie said, “where perhaps they’re incapacitated beyond being able to manage themselves where we will call for EMS to respond to something like that.”
Programming is available during the day, he said, noting that it is something “we continue to work on.”
“Certainly it’s been probably later in developing in the new building, as our initial focus here was in the new transitional housing apartments and getting those up and operational,” McKenzie said.
“Part of what we do is try and evaluate as we go along to see if there are ways we can do things better. If we have particular incidents that occur that are more problematic than others, we try to report those to social services and talk to them about it.”
Meetings between the department and the Salvation Army were by month for the first year. They are every quarter now. One of the topics discussed is “service denial,” according to the agreement.
Frost told reporters that the initial contribution was $3.1 million to help with starter costs; the annual contribution is $1.2 million.
A few months ago a department staff member was brought in to help the organization with the transition and planning, she said, and to ensure program requirements were being met.
“That term is coming to end, so that’s some concern for us,” she said, noting that there are some reporting requirements.
“We are working really hard to make sure they’re meeting the objectives and the deliverables we’ve written into the agreement,” she said. “We have winter coming, we have clients that are out in Whitehorse. That requires some supports, and (we) want to ensure that that is there for them. As a government we have an obligation.”
NDP Leader Liz Hanson said that a year into the contract, there appears to be very little, “if any,” programming occurring at the Salvation Army.
They have the exclusive task of offering services of a drop-in centre “but they’re not doing it,” she said.
McKenzie said that drop-in services are active during the timeframes stipulated in the contract, but participation isn’t high.
“It’s not well attended. There’s not a lot of people interested in participating,” he said.
Hanson said she isn’t picking on the organization – it’s about holding the government accountable.
“We’ve got folks who’re not in this big beautiful building making use of it. People are left to their own devices. What it needs is to be managed,” she said.
If clients are removed, it becomes an issue for the community, she said.
“(T)hey are congregating because they have no other place to go. This is reality manifest.
“They (the Salvation Army) have got the building and the land and we’re paying them. They have the monopoly.”
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org