An organization that has been serving families in the South Surrey-White Rock area for more than 30 years is “on the cusp of closing down” because of funding loss and inflation.
Recovery from pandemic-related restrictions, in addition to rising costs, is proving to be a challenge greater than anticipated for Semiahmoo Family Place, with the centre looking for possible solutions to continue offering their vital services to families.
Located in Kensington Prairie Community Centre, Semiahmoo Family Place offers family resources, drop-in programs for parents, caregivers and their children in South Surrey. Families typically bring their children, ranging from newborn to age six, but the centre welcomes everybody.
“A lot of families don’t want to miss out on those early years… Because they don’t want to send their kids to daycare, the drop-in programs we have allow them to stay together,” Monique Carlos, executive director of Semiahmoo Family Place, told Peace Arch News.
The centre connects families and caregivers to resources to make the best parenting decisions for their children, while also inviting librarians, dentists, nurses and other community workers to SFP. This way, parents and guardians have a one-stop shop to turn to when support is needed.
SFP had been receiving funding from the province’s Community Gaming Grants and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but the centre was told that their funding would not continue without an explanation as to why.
Contacted by PAN, a Ministry of Children and Family Development representative explained that in order to qualify for continued funding, an organization must have “access to a secure and consistent community space where services can be delivered to children and families.
“Government has worked to be flexible over recent years and provide extensions, but the service provider had not been able to secure a physical space to deliver services to families before the contract expired,” a Ministry representative said.
Because Kensington Centre is run by the city, re-opening of SFP was not in the hands of the organization. According to Carlos, SFP’s contract with the ministry expired at the end of March, while programs were allowed to be resumed in-person at the centre by April.
Carlos also tried to reach out to the ministry for support and re-consideration, but said she never received any correspondence.
“We are considering (whether) to reduce our days in the meantime to three days… to just extend the funds that we have until we get more,” Carlos said.
SFP has been running five days a week for years, four days at the centre and one day (Fridays) in a nearby park. The reduction three days, would mean two days at the Kensington Centre and one day outdoors.
Because SFP does not charge a lot to their clients — $5 per family for most programs — funding and donations are what keeps them going. After the closing and re-opening due to health restrictions, the centre was running on the same funds for two years.
Now, the money is running out.
“After surviving social isolation restrictions with newborns and young families, parents need these doors to stay open for the mental health, well-being and social emotional development of parents and children alike,” said Anna Regan, who often turns to Semiahmoo Family Place.
“I have used all of these programs and the relationships made in baby-time groups have formed a large foundation of mine and my children’s support networks. The experience there has a tangible impact, three years since I accessed these programs with my first child to now, accessing them with my second child.”
Community support is showing its strength, as many families and organizations are standing behind SFP to keep their programs running.
Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s children centre, which shares the Kensington place location with SFP, offered similar drop-in programs to families, but funding cuts have gravely impacted them as well.
Alex House’s Early Years L’Atelier Drop-In program was an opportunity for families with children up to age six to gather together and “allow their children to engage in fun, creative, developmentally appropriate activities,” said Rhea Hubbard, director of youth and family programs at Alexandra Neighbourhood House.
The two-day-a-week program was cancelled at the end of June due to a loss of funding.
“This is a great loss to the community especially as families are looking for places in their community to connect with other families and children,” Hubbard said.
With Alex House’s programs already being affected, the South Surrey and White Rock community has only Semiahmoo Family Place to turn to.
“We’re all in agreement that we don’t want to lose our service. Yes, we are on the cusp of closing down but I don’t think anyone would let that happen. It’s more that we need to slow down a little bit,” Carlos said.
The organization is searching for corporate funding to save their services from being taken away from South Surrey and White Rock parents.
Anyone interested in supporting Semiahmoo Family Place can visit their website at semiahmoofamilyplace.com/support-us/