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Local charities struggling amid pandemic, rising cost of inflation

According to the Giving Report, 26 per cent of Canadians expect to use or are already using charitable services, 25 per cent expect to give less, and 74 per cent are concerned about inflation
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The fifth edition of the Giving Report was recently published by CanadaHelps to highlight trends and challenges that Canadian charities are facing.

From 2019 to 2021, donations to charities are projected to have dropped by 12 per cent due to the pandemic, inflation, and other challenges, while a growing number of Canadians are expecting to rely on charities for assistance this year.

“There is a steady decline in the number of Canadians that donate to charities, and an increased reliance on a smaller group of ageing donors to give,” states the report. “Meanwhile, over the last two years, charities saw a decline in overall giving due to pressures of the pandemic and now this is expected to worsen due to the troubling rise in inflation.”

Unknown Neighbours is a not-for-profit organization based in Bradford and Collingwood. It supports temporary foreign workers by facilitating access to legal, health, community engagement, and other resources in Simcoe County and neighbouring York, Dufferin and Grey-Bruce Counties. 

“Our organization was actually born during the pandemic,” said Elaine Gareau, Chair of the Board of Director. “The government realized how critically important temporary foreign workers are to food production and the economy in general in Canada and put this program in place to support workers during the pandemic. Unfortunately, that funding has ended, but we would like to continue our work with volunteers as we saw a real need to support workers not only in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, but also workers who come to Canada to work in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.”

Like other charities, Unknown Neighbours has been affected by recent trends and fears the long-term impact may be too much.

“We have felt the increase in cost of living most harshly with regards to transportation,” said Gareau. “Our staff and volunteers often pick up and drop off workers for medical and dental appointments, as well as to attend social appreciation events held for workers. Distances between farms and the size of Simcoe County mean that we have to cover large distances. The cost of gas has far surpassed what we are able to pay workers and volunteers for the use of their own vehicles." 

CONTACT Community Services, a partner of Unknown Neighbours, is a registered charity that has supported the communities of south Simcoe for over 40 years by providing responsive services in housing, employment, and community support. It is also concerned.

"The pandemic, combined with inflation, and the overall cost of living has most definitely impacted the organization and in a variety of ways,” said Emily McIntosh, Executive Director of CONTACT Community Services.

One such trend is that more members of the community are presenting more complex situations.

“Specifically mental health challenges,” said McIntosh. “This is no surprise when you consider the stress of the pandemic on employment stability etc., but also managing social interaction in this new era. In-person service for agencies has become more limited, but from CONTACT’s perspective it is a key component to understanding a family's needs, and also accommodating the reality of limited access to service due to limited public transportation.”

CONTACT has also witnessed more community members feeling “exacerbated” due to the housing search, with working individuals not making enough to afford rent.

“There are almost no housing options for people on low income,” McIntosh explained. “The vacancy rate in south Simcoe for a one bedroom apartment is 0 per cent, according to 2020 data. Additionally, the free market has priced out persons on a fixed low income." 

McIntosh added that CONTACT Community Services "works diligently to facilitate access to rental subsidies to bridge this gap, but often, it is not enough to keep up with market rent."

According to CONTACT, the number of cases of individuals and families at risk of homelessness has increased by 12 per cent since 2020.

“Recently, we have witnessed seniors access emergency shelter simply because they cannot access an apartment they can afford,” said McIntosh. “This is a shift in the ‘face’ of homelessness compared to previous years. Since emergency pandemic funding is no longer available to shelters to access hotels, as it was during the height of the pandemic, there is an increase in visible homelessness.”

McIntosh said other needs and issues include people needing access to one-time financial support, there being a volunteer and labour shortage, and access to support for basic needs.

“CONTACT has assisted over 70 individuals and 48 families this past year alone with access to free clothing at our Bradford location."

According to the Giving Report, 26 per cent of Canadians expect to use or are already using charitable services, 25 per cent expect to give less, and 74 per cent are concerned about inflation.