Crystal Schick/Yukon News Barbara McInerney, executive director of Kaushee’s Place Transition Home, speaks at a rally for non-for-profits outside the legislature in Whitehorse on March 7.

Underfunding puts Kaushee’s Place at risk, says its executive director

The organization says it needs more core funding

Kaushee’s Place Transition Home is operating “month-to-month” and “will not make its next quarter” unless it receives an additional $525,000 in core funding, its executive director announced at a rally outside the legislature Mar. 7.

Kaushee’s Place is a 15-bed facility which provides safe emergency house housing for women and children in the community fleeing from domestic violence. The not-for-profit also operates Betty’s Haven, which has 10 transitional housing units where women and children can stay for up to 18 months in which occupants pay 25 per cent of their income up to fair market value.

The organization currently receives $1.4 million in government funding a year. From April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the organization served 346 women, 163 children and received 4,000 requests for services, which includes things like counselling or legal advice for women trying to get out of abusive home situations, Barbara McInerney, executive director of the organization said.

McInerney said it has not received an increase in core funding in two years. She also said that if she has any money left over in the previous quarter, it affects what she gets the following one, which means she can’t plan for heavier months or contingencies.

“If by December I have any money left over, I’m not getting my final quarter,” she said.

Pauline Frost, Minister of Health and Social Services, told the News that the Yukon government has increased funding since 2012 by 7.9 per cent and that the organization is allowed to use its surplus funding. She also said it had increased funding to Kaushee’s place by two per cent this year.

McInerney said the organization has received no new funding in two years and had been told no new funding is forthcoming until a review of the organization is done.

“You want to do a review, then do the review,” she said, adding that Kaushee’s Place has been a not-for-profit in good standing for 40 years.

“I don’t know why we’ve been undermined so much,” she said. “(Kaushee’s Place) is highly fiscally responsible — we have some stellar finance people on our board.”

McInerney said her organization has done everything possible to meet the expectations of the government, for whom she recognizes it is due diligence to carefully watch where tax dollars are going but “doesn’t know what they want” that will make this process move forward for the organization.

Moreover, McInerney said that as part of a process to determine funding and that there is no overlap in services with Kaushee’s Place and other not-for-profits, she has been asked questions about whether or not her clients “really need to be there,” if the organization is sure they are experiencing violence, if they are accepting people who are homeless.

When she made this statement at the Mar. 7 rally for non-for-profits outside the legislature it was met by cries of “Shame! Shame!” from the crowd of 30-some supporters.

The organization has only been able to hold out financially this long because it is in “direct competition” with the government for careworkers, such as counsellors and transition home workers, The government can afford to pay “$10 more an hour” than Kaushee’s Place can, McInerney said and is “actively recruiting” staff who work in the field, adding that there are three full time positions she would like to fill but can’t, even if she had the money, which she doesn’t.

This has left the transition home with a chronic labour shortage which has left staff on site stretched thin, working up to twelve hours a day, with sometimes only one person on to oversee the two houses, a situation McInernery said she felt was unsafe and unfair, given the emotionally and physically taxing nature of the work.

“We can’t keep going and I won’t put my staff at risk,” McInerney said.

When asked about the organization’s financial troubles, Frost told the News that it is, “up to (organizations) to find efficiencies.”

McInerney said that putting on less staff is “impossible.”

“We can’t put any less staff on; it’s dangerous,” she said, adding that they had cut back as far as they could but they “still have to turn the heat on.”

Frost said that there is currently a comprehensive review of health services happening across the board, which the government intends to wrap up this year. Part of that review is looking at “support services” like Kaushee’s Place so that there are “alignment of services” across the board and that what the government is funding “dedicated services” for women in need.

“We are working with (Kaushee’s Place) … we committed to working with them,” Frost said.

“We’ve opened the door (for conversation)… We know Kaushee’s Place has been working in good faith with a very strong board.”

Kaushee’s Place isn’t the only not-for-profit which delivers vital community services currently on the ropes. Workers at Many Rivers — which delivers free mental health care and counseling to Yukoners — were laid off in February, after it was found the the organization and its board of directors were not in compliance with rules for not-for-profits, causing the not-for-profit to lose all government funding. Workers there had been on strike since November 2018, which means the services they provide have been unavailable to the community members who need them for several months.

Recently, Yukoners also saw the Salvation Army removed from its role at the Centre of Hope after it was found it was not delivering the programs it was supposed to deliver under its agreement with the Yukon government. That organization had functioned as the primary providers for emergency shelter and resources for vulnerable persons in the community, a responsibility the Yukon government assumed at the end of January.

“They keep saying they are going to do a review,” McInerney said. “Are (they) waiting until we shut down to do a review of us and then take us over?”

“I would say that’s not something (McInerney) should concern herself with,” Frost said, in response to that suggestion.

“I want to encourage collaboration with the objective that we have (these services),” she said.

“Not only are we working with Kaushee’s Place… we have many communities that don’t have these services … that’s what we have to think about.”

“It’s with a heavy heart that I spend so much time begging for money,” McInerney told the News.

“Right now I’m working for survival and I have been for the last two (years). That’s cruel.”

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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