Cuts prompted sit in at MPP’s office in November
Funding cuts to homeless programs that prompted arrests at MPP Rick Bartolucci’s office in 2012 have largely been reversed, at least for this year.
This week, the province said Greater Sudbury would receive $1,058,261 more for local housing and homeless programs than previously announced. The extra money almost makes up for the $1.3 million cut in provincial transfers to Sudbury for programs that support people who are facing homelessness or who need support to get off the street. Province-wide, the cuts totalled about $60 million.
The cuts prompted a sit in last November at Bartolucci’s office by the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, leading to 11 arrests on trespassing charges. But in December, the province announced it was providing $42 million in one-time funding to cities to bridge the gap as municipalities take over responsibility for homeless programs.
Bartolucci said there are no stipulations on how cities spend the money, but they will have to file detailed reports on where it was allocated. Those reports will help determine funding levels after 2013, he said.
“We are consolidating those programs, and we wanted to make sure there will not be a shortfall anywhere,” Bartolucci said Jan. 10. “So with this additional money, we can ensure the municipalities are able to meet their priorities. We want to ensure we’re providing them with the necessary resources.”
In December, city council passed a resolution calling on the province to restore full funding for homeless programs. Bartolucci said the province’s decision wasn’t a direct result of any resolutions, but he has been in contact with the municipality in relation to funding for the homeless.
“I was in discussions with city staff and the mayor, with regards to the funding, and I assured them I wouldn’t be leaving the municipalities with a shortfall.”
Clarissa Lassaline, a member of the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, was one of the 11 charged with trespassing in Bartolucci’s office in November. She said the $42 million is less than the $60 million the province cut originally, but it’s good news nonetheless.
“We have $42 million that we didn’t have before,” Lassaline said. “But we want to still fight for the full amount.”
She’s also concerned the province hasn’t committed to increased funding in the long-term.
“Definitely, there’s a lot of positivity to this, because they are putting that money back into programs,” she said. “But you have to realize it’s not all the money, and the fact is, it’s just a one-time injection. This time next year, we could be in the exact same situation.”
Lassaline credits her group and similar ones across the province with helping pressure the government to restore funding.
“I think all of us coming together put a lot of pressure on the government to backtrack a bit,” she said. “And we’re going to continue that pressure, because we want all of that $60 million restored for good.”
Gail Spencer, Greater Sudbury’s co-ordinator of shelters and homeless programs, said they’re pleased the province has restored a big chunk of the money.
“We were very worried about the impact of the original $1.6 million loss that we were anticipating,” Spencer said.
She said the money will be focused on helping people at risk of becoming homeless, as well as people who need support to get off the street for good.
“We won’t be able to do as much as we were before,” she said. “But we are going to be able to focus the money on people who have fallen into rent arrears or need money to get started in a new place.
“We’re very pleased with the announcement and we think it’s really important to support people in our community who face housing instability.”