London

Crisis service faces funding shortfall

A London organization that helps thousands of families in crisis is facing a crisis of its own. A news release, issued Wednesday, said the Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre has a significant funding shortfall that could threaten some of its programs.

Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre will go to London city council for short-term funding.

Merrymount is facing a funding crisis while it tries to help London families in crisis. (Merrymount Family Support & Crisis Centre/Facebook)

A London organization that helps thousands of families in crisis is facing a crisis of its own. A news release, issued Wednesday, said the Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre has a significant funding shortfall that could threaten some of its programs. 

"We have been in a position where we provide services to the London community that we're not funded for," said executive director, Paul Howorth. "We have been providing about $8 million in total worth of services at Merrymount and being funded by the government by about $5.5 million."

The $2.5 million dollar shortfall has been offset by fundraising efforts, selling services and drawing about $1.5 million out of the Merrymount Foundation. Howorth said, that's not sustainable. 

Programs could be cut

"If we don't get to a balanced budget situation in the future we're looking at immediate cuts to some of our services."

Programs on the line include the organization's Crisis Residential and Respite Program and its Family Resource Program as those are not funded.

"Unfortunately, those are the key ones that are required in the London community," said Howorth. "No one else provides those services."

The respite program in London provides beds for children to stay overnight when they're faced with a family crisis. 

The Family Resource Program offers 34 "evidence-based programs" to families, including those who have faced turmoil in other parts of the world.

Investing in children

"If you can get targeted prevention to a child in the 0-6 age category it's proven to save $365,000 dollars per child in other mental health needs that they'll have before they turn 18," said Howorth.

Merrymount will ask the city for $316,704 this year and another $238,704 in 2020. Howorth describes it as short-term bridge funding to ensure programs can continue.

"We have a plan to balance the budget ourselves," said Howorth. "The plan is going to take about two years to implement."

Without the city's funding, Howorth predicts hardship and turmoil for the 8,000 London families and 4,000 children that turn to Merrymount each year. 

"The services we provide help parents to parent and they help children to cope with the difficult positions they're in due to poverty or addiction or child mental health issues, parent mental health issues," he said.

"Without learning the strategies to cope and hold onto the family unit there will be a lot more family breakdown in the city of London."