Efforts are underway in Stettler to create a fund to help those struggling to make ends meet or even pay for critical medications.
The emergency fund will meet a community need that many residents in the town of 5,500 don’t even know exists, said Shelly Potter, an employment counsellor with Stettler Family and Community Support Services.
“People think that we’re too small a community, that it can’t happen here,” said Potter on Wednesday. “But we don’t have any supports in place for emergency help for people.
“You know everybody goes home at 4:30 p.m. and thinks that everything is fine. But people are hungry, outside and looking for some place to sleep.”
Working out of the FCSS offices on the town’s main street, which also houses the employment insurance office, the employment centre and the handibus office, Potter has seen the needs that exist in the community for short-term help.
That’s where the emergency fund would come in. It will provide financial help for those who need some temporary relief from a pressing bill, gas money to get to a new job, assistance paying a deposit to get utilities hooked up, a few days of motel accommodations, or some help filling a needed prescription until government assistance is available.
“We have a lot of people who have been on (employment insurance) for a long time and it’s run out. A few of them have been lucky enough to get a job but then they don’t have fuel to get back and forth until that first pay day,” she said, adding fuel cards could be provided.
“We have some clients who can’t get their medications. We had one gentleman here awhile ago and he couldn’t get any of his medications.”
In some cases, the hospital has admitted people for their own safety because they don’t have medicines or a place to stay during cold nights. “It’s not because they were sick, it’s because there was no other option.”
Potter said organizers also hope to put together backpacks including basic essentials such as personal hygiene items and cards for local food outlets that can be handed out. If needed, transportation costs could be arranged to shelters or programs in Red Deer.
The fund will not be used to hand out cash, but will find other ways to provide support. It is likely that help will be capped at a value of $500 per applicant and help would be provided only once every six months.
A pair of meetings have been held this month with members of local social service agencies and the Lutheran Church to get the project rolling. The first donations have rolled in and the word will be sent to the ministerial association, service clubs and potential business sponsors to encourage support.
It is hoped charitable status can be lined up in the future to allow those who donate to get tax receipts.
Those interested in getting more information can call 403-742-1155.