Castlegar seniors support program in need of new funding

The local Seniors Outreach and Support (SOS) program will be losing its funding as of March 2017.

The local Seniors Outreach and Support (SOS) program will be losing its funding as of March 2017. SOS is a program of Castlegar & District Community Services.

The program had Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) social grant funding for three years of operation, which expires in March. SOS applied for new CBT funding, but was unsuccessful. “We appreciate them [CBT] so much, and we totally understand,” said program coordinator Sandi McCreight. “What we are looking for now is ongoing funding. We are not a new initiative, which is what they look after.”

The program focuses on seniors advocacy, offering individual and group support. During year two of the program, 235 clients accessed direct advocacy services through 813 contacts with program staff such as in-office visits, telephone conversations and at-home visits. This doesn’t include the many other seniors that were reached at events in Castlegar and the surrounding area.

The program has also received funding from Kootenay Savings Credit Union and Teck Metals, but not enough to keep the program running — that would take at least $30,000 per year.

SOS had hoped to not just maintain its services in Castlegar, but to expand into Trail and Salmo, whose senior populations are under-serviced. “We need to figure out how we are going to keep this going,” said McCreight.

SOS is looking hard for new funding options and is open to any ideas others might have.

McCreight issued a statement emphasizing there should be no hard feelings toward CBT as the program no longer falls under the mandate of the grant they had been receiving. “I want to thank Columbia Basin Trust for their support over the past three years. We are very fortunate to have received funding and are thankful for the ability to have made a huge impact in our community. We fully understand and respect the decision to not grant ongoing social grant program funding.”

She also stressed the need for governments and organizations to take a serious look at meeting the needs of seniors. “This program and others like it (hopefully) needs to be addressed by decision and policy makers at all different levels: community, regionally, provincially and federally. The seniors demographic will continue to increase as will the need for services like those offered by SOS. We need to be ready.”