Non-profit se­niors’ bus ser­vice loses grants, starts fundrais­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local - TA­MARA BOTTING

Karen Thom­son wants to keep the com­mu­nity bus rolling.

“This is not some­thing we’re putting to bed yet. We still want to have it avail­able as an op­tion,” she said.

For three years, Glan­brook Com­mu­nity Ser­vices part­nered with the City of Hamil­ton and two other com­mu­nity ser­vice groups in An­caster and Flam­bor­ough to be part of a com­mu­nity trans­porta­tion pi­lot grant pro­gram of­fered by On­tario’s Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion.

“They were specif­i­cally as­sist­ing older adults who had some trans­porta­tion bar­ri­ers to be able to con­nect from their ru­ral (homes) to city cen­tres,” said Laura Kerr, manager of pro­gram de­vel­op­ment in the recre­ation di­vi­sion of the City of Hamil­ton’s healthy and safe com­mu­ni­ties depart­ment.

Kerr worked with the three local groups to jointly ap­ply for the pi­lot pro­gram, and they were ac­cepted.

Orig­i­nally, it was a one-year pi­lot, but fund­ing was twice ex­tended.

In Glan­brook, the com­mu­nity bus pro­vided a round trip to the Wal­mart in El­frida once a month, as well as a few ex­tra trips to spe­cial events, like fairs and fes­ti­vals, or to spe­cific des­ti­na­tions, such as an at­trac­tion or a day trip.

From April 2017 to Septem­ber 2018, Glan­brook Com­mu­nity Ser­vices re­ceived $13,000 through the pi­lot pro­gram.

Then in late 2017, the min­istry de­cided the pi­lot pro­gram had been a suc­cess and that it would be­come a grant pro­gram.

“We de­cided to reap­ply for the five-year fund­ing so they could con­tinue with the com­mu­nity trans­porta­tion ser­vices,” Kerr said.

“It was a very pop­u­lar grant pro­gram,” she added, and while over $54 mil­lion in fund­ing was re­quested, only $30 mil­lion was is­sued, and the City of Hamil­ton and the three com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions were de­nied fund­ing.

The scor­ing was based on con­sid­er­a­tions like ser­vice ar­eas, rid­er­ship num­bers and the ap­pli­cants’ five-year plan. Participation in the pi­lot pro­gram was not part of the scor­ing.

“The min­istry wishes they could have funded everybody, but un­for­tu­nately they couldn’t,” Kerr said.

She said Glan­brook Com­mu­nity Ser­vices is con­tin­u­ing to run the com­mu­nity bus, but now fund­ing for it is com­ing out of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s core pro­gram­ming cof­fers.

De­pend­ing on the mode of trans­porta­tion re­quired for the in­tended des­ti­na­tion, a sin­gle trip could cost the or­ga­ni­za­tion up­wards of $1,000.

Thom­son said this is why fundrais­ing is so im­por­tant, be­cause it helps off­set some of the costs.

Kerr said that the city is will­ing to work with the or­ga­ni­za­tions to ex­plore other fund­ing op­tions.

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