There is no shortage of projects being undertaken by the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board in 2018, with a number of new child-care centres set to open their doors for 2019 and 2020.
Here in Fort Frances, the DSSAB is funding the operations of the child-care centre for the new Catholic school being built at St. Francis and a new one at Robert Moore School, both set to open in September, 2019.
Looking ahead to 2020, a child-care facility specific to people who are indigenous is being built in Fort Frances while another general child-care centre is to be built at the new K-12 school being constructed in Atikokan.
The local DSSAB recently held its annual meeting, with delegates approving the 2017 financial statements and annual report that outlined the above projects.
The organization’s financial statements indicated there was $21.28 million in revenue and $19.78 million in expenses.
The revenue is government funded and specified for certain services such as land ambulance, child care, social housing, DSSAB housing, Ontario Works, and administration costs.
The expenses all were used on the listed program, with roughly $7.2 million spent on running land ambulance services, $2.90 million on DSSAB housing, $2.81 million on child care, $2.11 million on social housing, and $1.96 million on Ontario Works.
The financial statements show $1.5 million in accumulated surplus, which exceeds its budgeted surplus of $407,200 for 2017, bringing the total accumulated surplus up to $19.71 million.
CAO Dan McCormick felt 2017 was successful year for the DSSAB in achieving what it needed to do to get child-care centres funded in the district.
“Putting in all the proposals to do these new builds and securing the funding through the province, you’re talking for child care a little over $14 million coming into our district,” he noted
Moving forward, McCormick said, “We know we have a housing shortage in our district for singles and we’re hoping to further address that in the future, as well.”
The DSSAB currently is making an investment in affordable housing by constructing a building next to the water treatment plant here that McCormick hopes will be open by August.
The affordable housing building will have eight dormitory-style bachelor apartments where the bedroom, living room, and kitchen are all in one room.
The rent will be fixed at 80 percent of the market and is open to everyone, although those approved will have demonstrated the greatest need, McCormick said.
The DSSAB will look at applicants’ financial statements and decide from there whether or not the person is eligible for a rent reduction.
While the organization is looking to continue the modernization of its child care and social housing, another key priority is the rewrite of the DSSAB’s housing and homelessness plan.
“We currently had a 10-year plan so we’re going in and updating it for the next five years with a two-year action plan,” McCormick explained.
“It’s a pretty extensive plan,” he added. “It addresses the whole district so it deals with aboriginal or indigenous people and what the trends are for the district with the aging population.”
The DSSAB has increased its spending on the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative in the last year, with a rise from a little over $35,900 to $55,355 in housing with related supports and an increase from a little over $20,000 to a little under $33,550 in homelessness prevention.
Homelessness certainly exists in the district. It just isn’t something people notice like they would in more urban centres.
“It’s a hidden homelessness in our district,” McCormick said. “You don’t see people just laying on the streets as you do in Toronto.
“You don’t think it would effect us here in the north as much but it does.
“We did just do our numeration count and we have identified several people who are homeless [in the district], but either couch-surfing or staying at friends’ places,” he noted.
“Some of them live in tents through the summer.”
Another service the local DSSAB spend a lot of money funding is para-medicine.
It funds paramedic services across the district with a total of four full-time bases in Fort Frances, Emo, Rainy River, and Atikokan housing a total of 55 paramedics.
One of the areas the DSSAB has worked on since 2002, and will continue to work on, is “non-urgent transfers.”
“In the last four years here, we’ve had two major reports done through the LIHNs on the effect of non-urgent transfers, and by that I mean patients that don’t require an ambulance to move them from location to location,” McCormick noted.
“In the north, that’s typically done because there are no other alternatives, so we’ve been fighting very strongly for funding and actually achieved funding in the LIHN budget in their last quarter,” he noted.
“However, they didn’t disperse it so we’re a little concerned about that,” he added. “And we know there is money for this current year and we’re just waiting to see what they do with it.”
When it comes to deciding how government funding is spent, McCormick said there is little leeway.
“We don’t have a lot of wiggle room,” he stressed. “What we do have is the money to ensure the continued service provision and to ensure it’s being delivered at a high-quality level.”