The only organization in Whitehorse that helps disabled Yukoners with finding work may close its doors in six weeks.
That’s because on March 31, a three-year funding agreement between the Yukon Council on Disability and the Yukon government is ending and will not be renewed.
The organization receives most of its funding through Yukon’s advanced education branch, as one of five employment assistance service providers.
These providers, which also include Employment Central, Klondike Outreach, Watson Lake Community Outreach and Association franco-yukonnaise, help people find jobs through case management services.
Charlene Donald, the disability council’s executive director, said that the non-profit just doesn’t fit the criteria for funding set out by the government.
“We were asked to put in a proposal this year, which we did, but our mandate isn’t following the guidelines of an (employment assistance service) as tightly as the funding requires,” she said.
“We work strictly with people with disabilities, and some of those people will be case managed for years without employment being the end goal. That just doesn’t fit in with the department’s funding guidelines, because they’re basically funding with an end goal of employment.”
But advocacy for people with disabilities, as opposed to employment, is the organization’s main goal, Donald said.
Case management can be a lengthy process. It can sometimes take years, depending on the person.
There are 116 open cases for people who are seeking help in a variety of ways, Donald said.
The first part involves gaining the person’s trust, and understanding how to help them become self-sustainable.
“Once trust is gained, it may take two or three visits before they may self-identity as having a disability,” she said.
“It could be months or years before you get down to the bare bones and find out what the barriers are, and how we can help them. With us it’s not all about education and employment, it’s getting them their self-esteem back and getting the trust required to effectively assist these people.”
The department wanted better numbers, Donald said, which the organization just couldn’t provide.
When she found out last week that funding wouldn’t be renewed, she said it was a big blow to the organization, which was just picking up steam with new ideas on how to advocate more for people with disabilities.
That included doing mediation for clients, assisting them with daily living and preventing them from slipping through the cracks.
But that doesn’t mean the organization is dead in the water, she said.
“We’re hoping to put together a proposal to access funding from other sources, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue,” she said.
“If we close down, there’s nowhere for them (people with disabilities) to go.”
Amanda Couch, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, said a request for proposal would be issued after March 31 to find an organization capable of delivering case management services for people with disabilities.
The Yukon Council on Disability has been invited to submit a proposal, she said.
Regardless of the outcome by March 31, the council will have to downsize and perhaps move to another location, Donald said.
It currently employs two part-time receptionists, a job coach, two employment and education service coordinators and an executive director.
Lynne Morris, president of the board, said it’s been hard on both sides because the government is restricted by its criteria.
“And we don’t fit in those boxes, our clients don’t fit,” she said.
“Everybody who does employment assistance, to a degree, has to deal with the whole person. But even more so, we have to deal with the whole person and all their rough edges, shapes, conditions and time frames.
“We’re passionate about providing services to every Yukon person and there’s no reason why any resident can’t be an important member and fully-engaged in society.”
Contact Myles Dolphin at