It was with profound shock and disappointment that I learned of the choice by the Municipality of the County of Richmond to reverse a decision of the Committee-of-the-Whole of December 14, 2016, to provide interim funding to support the position of Community Outreach and Support Worker.
This position enabled many of our community members to remain safely in their own homes, to obtain needed grant funding for home repairs, to become aware of resources available to them, and to complete various forms needed to access services, etc. It has been demonstrated that through this position, many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been saved (for example, through preventing admission to a nursing home) and several hundred thousand dollars of new resources brought to Richmond County. The person holding this position could be an invaluable resource for our municipal councillors as they now each try to cover a large geographic area.
At this giving time of year, we, as a community, have failed those within Richmond County who face daily challenges. We have failed to convey to our municipal council that we wish to be part of a caring community where everyone is respected and counted as important; where we strive to look out for each other.
Those who made the decision not to provide interim funding to allow negotiations for a permanent solution are, in their daily lives, family-centered, good and caring neighbours. In their position on council, they face many tough decisions. I have no knowledge of the true financial status of the municipality. But I feel strongly, the best way to create a community is to enable everyone to have the opportunity to thrive and contribute.
And research supports this belief. Through the position of Community Outreach and Support Worker, fellow community members have been given an opportunity to improve their life circumstances.
The council apparently argued that, because the Richmond County Literacy Network has a reserve of money, they should provide the needed interim funding ($10,000 for the next three months). However, the network has limited funds and the reserve is utilized to keep pace with rising costs (particularly a significant increase in rental costs). Although the position of Community Outreach and Support Worker has mandate elements that occasionally overlap with those of the Richmond County Literacy Network, it is not primarily a literacy service. The Richmond County Literacy Network has provided rent-free space, supports (telephone, etc.), assistance and some funding (community-raised funds) since the inception of the position the fall of 2014.
Through many community conversations and focus groups, social isolation and poverty have been identified as major issues in Richmond County. Working to decrease poverty and social isolation are two of the strategic directions of the Strait Richmond Community Health Board. Among other community organizations, the Seniors Take Action Coalition, the Health Equity Action Resource Team, Community Links and the Dr. Kingston Memorial Community Health Centre have strongly supported the need for and value of this position.
I do hope, as concerned citizens, we can express our dismay and work together to persuade the municipality to formulate an immediate action plan to save this position.
Dorothy R Barnard, MD, PhD, FRCPC