Funding crunch for PoCoMo youth bus
A program supporting vulnerable youth is facing its own troubles after failing to secure stable, long term funding.
PoCoMo Youth Service Society has taken its bus off the road one weekend a month because of funding difficulties and may be facing more cuts early next year, according to executive director Jerome Bouvier.
Ironically, the agency's funding troubles comes at a time when it is receiving accolades for its work with at risk youth, including a Diamond Jubilee medal issued to executive director Jerome Bouvier by MP James Moore. And last month, PoCoMo raised $16,000 at a community gala.
Bouvier says he is grateful for the acknowledgement and the donations of individuals and businesses, but said the society that provides support and referral to youth it meets at night on weekends in schools and parks needs a stable source of funding so the program can continue and even grow.
"The awards are wonderful, we really appreciate them, but it doesn't put gas in the bus," Bouviers said.
While funding is tight everywhere, Bouvier is hoping a meeting Tuesday with Children and Families Minister Stephanie Cadieux will shake some funding loose from the provincial government. But he's concerned that uncertainty due to the election will result in PoCoMo's needs being put on the back-burner.
According to Bouvier, it costs $125,000 a year to run the bus and pay for 12 part-time youth workers but PoCoMo only has enough in grants to last another six months. "We go from grant to grant," Bouvier said.
He said he's frustrated that after eight years in providing service to the community that he can't secure a long-term funding commitment that would enable the society provide consistent, continuous service.
Most of the youth he and the other youth counsellors see are among the most vulnerable, many of them are "cutters" who injure themselves. "We're dealing with a lot of young people who are struggling," he said, noting that the weekend after Amanda Todd's suicide the PoCoMo counsellors met with about 60 kids "just to talk and share their own pains...for every Amanda, we have eight or nine who are struggling."
PoCoMo is successful because it builds trust with youth and then is able to work with other Tri-City agencies to make sure they get supports, he said. Having to cut services will make it more difficult to help the approximately 2,000 youth the agency meets in a year.
In one bright spot, PoCoMo received a grant from an Alberta donor to hire an individual case manager, who, Bouvier said, started the job a month ago and already has 12 kids on her case load.