Snow Angel program isn't working, some councillors say

If some city councillors get their way, this will be the last year that a program linking volunteer snow shovelers with residents who are elderly or disabled exists in its current form.

Every year, the $100,000 program falls short of fulfilling the need

If some city councillors get their way, this will be the last year that a program linking volunteer snow shovelers with residents who are elderly or disabled exists in its current form.

Snow Angels enlists the help of volunteers to shovel the walkways, driveways and sidewalks of people who can’t do it themselves. But it costs $100,000 per year and never meets the demand, said Coun. Tom Jackson. He’d like to see the city either tweak the program or come up with a better alternative.

“I’m still supportive of getting us through this winter,” said Jackson, who represents Ward 6 on the Mountain.

But before next winter comes, “I will definitely be pushing for other options to spend that $100,000.”

Snow Angel Program: the 2013-2014 season

Number of eligible residents: 282

Number of volunteers: 50

Number of unmatched residents: 165

The program began in December 2005. The city partners with Volunteer Hamilton to recruit volunteers and match them with residents who need it.

The $100,000 pays for staffing, marketing materials and communication, rent, utilities, insurance, equipment rental, volunteer expenses and other incidentals, a staff report says.

But each year, more clients go unmatched than are helped by the program, Jackson said. As of Nov. 26, there are 282 residents who need snow removal and only 117 are matched with a volunteer. There are 50 volunteers and some shovel for multiple residents.

Volunteer Hamilton will ramp up its promotional efforts for the program. But the numbers show that the program isn’t working in its current form, Jackson said.

“I’ve hung in there for five or six years and it just hasn’t created the match results for the number of clients it needs to serve,” he said. “I’m disappointed by that.”

At a committee meeting Monday, Coun. Sam Merulla said there’s universal support for the program, but “I think it’s the execution that’s in question right now,” he said.

Councillors will discuss the Snow Angel program at a city council meeting Wednesday.

With the program, volunteers have within 24 hours to shovel a property each time it snows three centimetres or more.

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