To address growing local needs and support continuation of service, Airdrie City council will consider providing a one-time bridging grant of $40,000 to the Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society (ADVAS) during its 2020 budget deliberations.
“ADVAS offers a vital and customized service to our community members. As an organization, we are doing everything possible to maintain our level of service, to ensure that no one falls through the cracks,” said Andrea Tattersall, acting executive director with ADVAS, during a presentation to council at a regular meeting Nov. 4.
“Without the appropriate funding levels, ADVAS will need to scale back our services.”
ADVAS provides assistance to the RCMP for both criminal and non-criminal files within Airdrie, Rocky View County, Crossfield and Beiseker, Tattersall said, but faces a challenge in that government funding only covers its work related to criminal files – the non-criminal files are funded through fundraising efforts.
“Scaling back services would result in our inability to respond and support the community through non-criminal files,” she said. “This means we would not be able to support situations of sudden death, suicide, major traffic collisions and fires.”
As a police-based victim services unit, the non-profit receives up to $150,000 from the province each year, according to Tattersall. The organization’s office space within the RCMP is provided by the City, she said, and up to $30,000 of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funds is provided to cover some of the expenses associated with training volunteers.
“In 2018, volunteers within the ADVAS organization worked 20,500 hours of on-call assistance to victims and training,” Tattersall said.
However, demand is increasing – in 2017, ADVAS reported 70 call-outs; 53 in 2018; and by July of 2019, the organization had already responded to 24, according to Tattersall. In May, ADVAS requested additional funding from the Minister of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, to address the growth in Airdrie.
“A key outcome of our sustainability project was to build a financial roadmap for our continued success. Our first priority was to apply to the Community Initiatives Program for operational dollars to hire a part-time fund developer,” she said. “Our application was successful, and we recently hired a fund developer to build a strategy and a campaign for ADVAS.”
In the meantime, the society's request for $40,000 as a one-time bridging grant, Tattersall said, will ensure the organization can continue operations while this roadmap is developed.
“The services that are provided here by ADVAS have been an incredible support,” said Airdrie RCMP Detachment Commander Kimberley Pasloske.
The organization assists with situations like next-of-kin notifications, providing support to family members as they navigate the difficult situation, she said. According to Pasloske, if the same service was provided instead by RCMP, it would come with at a more significant municipal expense.
Tattersall said ADVAS will be approaching the other municipalities it serves to request additional funding, as well. However, administration’s report pointed out this places the burden of financial responsibility on these municipalities, when providing funding to support victims of crime is a federal and provincial role.
“We would also like to ask for the City’s continued advocacy and support in asking the Minister to launch the much-needed review of program funding models,” Tattersall said. “We are not alone in our struggles, and we wish to find a solution for this issue.”