Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

L’Accueil Bonneau forced to reduce its food aid services

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Accueil Bonneau is requesting an emergency subsidy from the Quebec government in order to continue offering the food services it has been offering since 1877. (Archive photo)

  • Érika Bisaillon (View profile)Érika Bisaillon

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Accueil Bonneau will have to stop offering meals on weekends starting January 6. If this organization does not soon receive the financial assistance it needs, the survival of the food services it offers to people in precarious situations will be in real jeopardy starting in February.

It's no secret: Accueil Bonneau is struggling with a deficit for a third consecutive year. This organization recorded deficits of approximately $400,000 in 2021 and 2022 and more than $600,000 this year. However, the Accueil Bonneau Foundation is no longer able to absorb these sums.

If the organization claims to have drawn on its reserves, these These are now dry.

The general director of Accueil Bonneau, Fiona Crossling, explains that increases in general costs and expenses led to this deficit. Fundraising also doesn't bring in as much as in the past, she laments.

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Fiona Crossling, general director of Accueil Bonneau.

Accueil Bonneau mainly fills its budget through donations, but we are talking about a need of several hundred thousand dollars per year just for food services, indicates the general director.

LoadingIntensive negotiation between the government and the FAE

ELSE ON INFO: Intensive negotiation between the government and the FAE

At the heart of the problem: the ;Accueil Bonneau does not receive any government funding for its food services, which have been offered for 146 years now.

Homelessness funding for food is strictly reserved for emergency accommodation. Since the mission of Accueil Bonneau is to provide transitional and long-term housing, we are not entitled to the same funding.

A quote from the general director of Accueil Bonneau, Fiona Crossling

Food aid is an essential service, but it does not fit into the funding envelope of the Community Organization Support Program, deplores Fiona Crossling.

Accueil Bonneau is therefore requesting annual public assistance of $1.2 million from the provincial government for all of its services, which notably include psychosocial interventions , health care and legal support. Of this amount, $700,000 would be reserved for food services.

In a letter sent to the Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, on December 18, the organization requested a lasting solution to its recurring and chronic funding problem.

Subsequently, Minister Carmant and his colleague Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, each granted a discretionary amount of $25,000 to maintain food services at Accueil Bonneau during the holiday season .

Each minister is free to spend a certain discretionary budget as he wishes in order to finance non-profit organizations whose mission matches that of his ministry. However, this is one-off emergency assistance.

The $50,000 from the discretionary envelopes of the Ministry of Health and Social Services will therefore make it possible to maintain food services five days a week during the month of January. However, as for the month of February and the following months, no solution is yet on the table.

Generally speaking, the number number of people using food banks reached a record level this year. It is therefore all the more inconceivable for aid organizations like Accueil Bonneau to reduce their activities.

However, this organization has already been forced to gradually reduce its services over the past year in order to minimize the impact on beneficiaries. Currently, on weekends, it no longer provides table service, but it offers hot take-out meals through a window at the back of the building.

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People in precarious situations line up on weekends, even in cold weather, to get a hot and complete meal served by Accueil Bonneau.

The end of the service offered on weekends from January 6 will make it possible to spread out the emergency sums granted by the government over time. However, without additional funding, in addition to depriving 400 people of food services daily, Accueil Bonneau fears having to cut its workforce.

The organization's executive director insists: food services are the best way to get people off the street. By eating a hot, complete meal, beneficiaries gain confidence with the workers, can chat with them and have access to a whole continuum of services, she explains.

This type of organization is also very useful in breaking the isolation in which people in precarious or homeless situations are plunged. Some of them, whom Radio-Canada met, fear that the end of food service will lead to an increase in mischief and cases of vandalism in the sector. Others fear that the number of thefts in grocery stores will jump.

If some residents of Accueil Bonneau have food assistance cards, non-residents will have to find an alternative solution for food on weekends.

The Director General fears that physical and mental health problems will are only increasing, as are the difficulties of cohabitation. The consequences will be physical and mental and will be felt in the long term, she concludes.

With information from x27;Audrey Neveu

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