Local Aboriginal AIDs organization, Positive Living North (PLN) has now lost a big portion of its funding.
Executive Director, Vanessa West, says the Fire Pit Cultural Drop In Centre on 3rd Avenue will now lose annual funding it has received from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) since 2004. “We have taken quite a big hit financially with the loss of approximately 175 thousand dollar each year.”
As of late September, West says it was announced PHAC funding for the Fire Pit Cultural Drop In-Centre will be cut by March 31st, 2017. She added that will be the same fate with funds being cut or discontinued for more than 220 HIV/AIDS applicants across the country. “Normally that money would cover our operational costs which is the rent and staff wages,” she said. “Funding for programs and activities, so that we can do the cultural activities that we provide here at the site and so a lot of that is really the core operational costs of this facility.”
PHAC sent out responses from the HIV and Hepatitis Community Action Fund (CAF) Letter of Intent Process on September 29th, 2016. West says that it took more than five months to hear of an in intent to cut funds. “This really caught us unaware when the final decision came down to our letter of intent that we can go through a proposal, but we can’t include any costs associated with the fire pit.”
West says PLN is one of the 140 applicants in Canada going through the proposal process. Outcry from many Indigenous HIV and AIDS communities in the country has also been heard. The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) was also invited to submit a full proposal, but only at 30 per cent of the previous funding levels.
In Prince George, PLN has been a part of the community since 1992. Its Fire Pit Drop In service can serve up to 150 unique individuals each day. West says a loss in funding puts a big question mark on the future as the organization looks for alternative methods of attaining money. “We have a lot of support in Prince George for the services that we provide at the fire pit so I’m hoping we can look to industry, look to other funding sources to keep these doors open.”
In a statement sent to CKPG News, PHAC says it has changed its criteria for funding and has reached out to organizations. “Following an open and transparent submission and review process, 124 organizations from across Canada were invited to submit full project applications for funding, either individually or as part of an alliance of organizations. This includes 41 new organizations that were not funded under previous HIV and hepatitis C programs administered by PHAC. ”
PHAC continued to say its change in funding criteria is based on the provinces and territories discussion to best create a strong community response for sexually transmitted diseases. “Positive Living North was asked to reduce its project budget request so it aligns with the terms of the Community Action Fund.”
In addition, PHAC mentioned that its Community Action Fund invests 26.4 million dollars per year in projects in communities across Canada. They went on to say that this investment has not changed in past years.
Although, back in Prince George, people like Lisa Bolton who suffered from drug addiction problems in the past could lose the one place she calls home. “We’d have one less place to come you know to eat and to talk to people if we need help,” she said. “I call this my family, it’s important for me and everyone who comes through here to have this place.”
PHAC funding will still be able to be received for HIV/AIDS education if PLN’s proposal is accepted, but it is not eligible to ask for funding for the Fire Pit
If funding is not restored to the Fire Pit, West estimates that the cultural drop in centre may see its doors close by March 31st, 2017.