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Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition makes its case for increased funding

Strong turnout before council as it seeks an extra $100,000 to help run programs through 13 neighbourhood groups

The Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition came looking for increased funding from the city on Wednesday and brought along some of the reasons why to help drive home its point.

While their children coloured on tables in the hall outside the door, roughly 100 people filled the gallery Wednesday in what was the biggest show of force in Council Chambers since the Nestle Water issue was on the table over a year ago.

That support included several community agencies that partner with the GNSC to help deliver services.

The GNSC is seeking an additional $100,000 to help deliver the wide range of services it delivers and facilitates around the city, primarily through the 13 neighbourhood groups that are members.

Those offerings include everything from the weekly North End Harvest Market that provides fresh produce to lower income families, community gardens, yoga classes, neighbourhood summer camps and connecting area residents with social service agencies.

The additional funds would be used to hire additional staff.

The neighbourhood coalition currently receives $435,000 from the city as part of its overall $807,000 budget.

It says it is struggling to meet the needs of its organization and has more neighbourhood groups waiting to join that it can’t currently accept because of budget constraints.

“We’re kind of capacitied-out,” said Executive Director Brendan Johnston.

“This continued investment is just going to see more blossoming and growth” said Johnston of a service that everyone in the room, including council, agreed is a great service for the city.

The GNSC currently has two years remaining on its five-year agreement with the city and does include a cost of living increase annually.

But budget decisions are often made with the head as well as the heart.

The GNSC isn’t asking for a lot in the big picture of a $200-plus million city budget, but it is still an increase to the budget and something that would likely spark a ‘what about us?’ sentiment amongst the 12 other organizations that have community benefit agreements with the city.

“We’re basically saying ‘this is more important than the rest’” if it’s approved, said Coun. Karl Wettstein.

“For us to do this, we’ve got to cut something (from the 2018 budget) and you’ve left s with that challenge,” Wettstein said.

The coalition brought out some heavy hitters on a roster of 10 people who spoke to council as delegates in support of the budget request.

They included Raechelle Devereaux of the Guelph Community Health Centre, Erin Harvey of Family and Children’s services and Sgt. Arif Hasham of the Guelph Police Service, who all work with the GNSC.

Hasham told council that he personally would be in favour of taking $100,000 out of the police budget and give it to the GNSC.

“I’ve come to understand how important neighbourhood groups are to community policing,” Hasham said.

Harvey said some programs may have to be cut if additional funds aren’t found.

Alisha Arnald, who benefited from programs offered through the GNSC and is now a neighbourhood support worker for the Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group, said the programs offered are “super, super important.”

“We help, support and empower each other in those neighbourhood groups,” Arnald said.

Council will make the decision on the $100,000 request on Dec. 5.