Our Place Society, the hub of help for Victoria’s poor, is more than $100,000 short of its budget for the month of November.
“Basically, we received a lot less than we expected for this time of year,” said executive director Don Evans. The non-profit society receives about 45 per cent funding from government and grants. The rest of its funds come from donations throughout the year, with November and December as the biggest months.
Our Place budgeted to bring in $482,000 for November but received $369,000. In December, they need to bring in $650,000, but will also have to make up for the previous month’s loss.
The organization has benefited from the same fundraisers as in previous years, but there have been fewer donors and responses to mailouts, and less money given, Evans said. “Part of it might be a lot of charities asking for money right now and donor fatigue.”
He also thinks more people across the region might be struggling financially.
“We’re seeing a lot of new faces, seniors and people coming from out of province,” Evans said.
Our Place experienced a 13 to 19 per cent spike in clients in the past three months, at a time of year when there is usually a decline. “People are finding themselves out of work, struggling to get services and it’s expensive to live here.”
The last thing Evans wants to see are any cutbacks to programs or services. Our Place recently opened on weekends and holidays to serve more meals, and expanded other services.
“Ultimately, we need to find the money, but we’ll do other things to offset costs,” he said, adding they are also $30,000 over budget for food expenses. “We’ve been able to deal with part of it through food donations, reaching out to businesses and grocery stores.”
One new initiative that has helped is the sponsor-a-breakfast program, in which individuals, families and businesses can buy and serve 300 less fortunate neighbours breakfast for $300 to $450.
“It’s great for businesses and team-building to see the people they are helping. They leave on a high,” Evans said. “We even had one fellow do it for his 94th birthday.”
The extreme weather shelter and warming station at Our Place has been full over the past few days. The shelter is in desperate need of warm blankets, clothes and socks — which made a donation drop-off Wednesday afternoon extra special.
“All it takes is one person to effect change,” said 12-year-old Steph Brulot-Sawchyn, as he and his three younger siblings carried bags of clothing and supplies from their family car to the Our Place foyer.
Magali Brulot said her eldest son was inspired by the Me to We campaign for Free the Children and raised $1,100 in a garage sale fundraiser this spring.
“So when the other kids really wanted to do a fundraiser. I talked to them about the local need for help,” she said.
The family decided to do a clothing drive for Our Place, placing boxes and signs at a bank and recreation centre in Oak Bay during November. The children, who attend St. Patrick’s Elementary, would check on the donation boxes after school.
“Our living room was piled high with stuff,” Brulot said.
As the children looked at the dozen or so bags they dropped off on Wednesday, they all agreed they would do it again.
“There seems to be more children and young people getting involved with social issues, maybe because they’re learning about it in school,” Evans said. “This younger generation is very giving. It’s incredibly heartwarming.”
To learn more about Our Place Society, a registered charity, go to ourplacesociety.com.