It was a surprising late summer storm: News began to emerge, first from London, that the federal government was cutting fiscal 2006 funding for its national homelessness program (called the Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative).
The program has been on death-watch for almost 18 months. It was due to die last year, but the federal government announced a one-year extension in November of 2005 to carry the $134.8 million program through to the end of March 2007. While advocates have been working hard to secure a federalcommitment for more homeless funding after March 2007, it was assumed that the current-year dollars were secure.
After word emerged that local Service Canada officials in London were making a cut of about $375,000 in 2006 homeless funding, the Wellesley Institute spun into high gear. We were able to confirm in-year funding cuts reported in six Ontario communities (including almost $6 million in Toronto), plus Yellowknife. A Wellesley backgrounder, which was updated several times, was widely circulated and helped to prompt an effective national response.
By the end of last week, the federal homelessness minister Diane Finley issued a statement promising to roll out the entire 2006 funding. She also promised to make sure that the $37 million in homeless funding left over from 2005 would also be allocated.
In the end, round one of the homeless funding battle has gone to the community. The bigger campaign – which is to renew and enhance the federal homelessness funding – carries on.
– Michael Shapcott