Limited funding and #METoo forces local sexual assault centre to get creative

Athena Place spokesperson says sexual assault centres have never received adequate funding

Sexual assault centres like Athena Place, run by Huronia Transition Homes, have learned to get creative, according to director of operations Haily MacDonald.

The Ford government announced almost a year ago it would maintan current funding for victim service programs across Ontario and provide an extra $1 million in funding for sexual assault centres in 2019 and 2020.

Nothing has been guaranteed past March 2020.

$1 million dollars for 42 centres amounted to just over $40,000 for Huronia Transition Homes. Athena Place offers services in Barrie, Orillia, Midland, Alliston and Collingwood.

“Statistically across the province of Ontario, sexual assault centres do not receive sufficient funds to operate,” said MacDonald. “There is an annual deficit that we have to offset by fundraising and grants.”

Macdonald says #METoo has resulted in a spike in crisis calls from survivors. She references the creativity of staff that has meant wait times for service have been maintained at a month and a half.

An example of the creativity by Athena Place in Barrie was to use the $40,000 in funding to offer survivors of sexual assault an individual six-week course on trauma.

MacDonald says that has helped to alleviate the pressures. Some of the women who have taken the course find it is more than enough and have not required counselling.

What happens after March is anybody’s guess. MacDonald says they will get their core funding, even though she says it has been cut back many times through the years. The big question is whether the province will increase funding for sexual assault centres.

Places like Athena Place had a carrot dangled in front of them by the previous Liberal government which promised a 30 per cent increase in funding for services offered by sexual assault centres.

The funding never saw the light of day when the government was defeated.