The community sector needs help now

February 21, 2022 •  By Cristina Roque
Grand Montréal et logo Centraide

An executive director who has no choice but to indefinitely close her agency doors after her only employee leaves for a better salary in the public system. A mental health worker who must weigh his desire to help with his feelings of burnout and guilt. Community workers forced to use food banks themselves because they don’t make enough money to feed their families. 

Hundreds of similar examples can be found all over Quebec. The pandemic, labour shortages, and inflation have exacerbated these problems. Despite their commitment, community sector staff are all too often the ones crying out for help.  

We have to stop relying on their dedication alone to cope with these issues.  

Beyond their historic contribution, community-sector staff have been behind the scenes along with, if not in the shadow of, health care workers to make a concrete difference to mitigate the short-, medium- and long-term effects of the health and social crisis, particularly for marginalized and vulnerable individuals and social groups. The multiple impacts are complex and include magnified social isolation, mental health crises, increased spousal and domestic violence, rationed health and social services, more students failing or dropping out of school, lost employment, and amplified vulnerability for those working the lowest-paid jobs. 

Faced with these growing social issues, the community network is not only part of the solution but often the only solution. We must collectively give this sector the resources it needs to successfully cope with them. As witnesses to what this network accomplishes every day, the Centraides of Quebec believe that community agencies need increased, substantial and predictable financial support. And they urgently need it now. 

Community workers invest so much energy and take a great deal of time to build and maintain relationships of trust to adequately support the people they help. To maintain their expertise and ability to anticipate needs, they must reinforce and strengthen their teams. This has been especially true in recent years. People’s lives are at stake, and the situation is dire.  

Quebec’s entire community network has been working overtime from the second the pandemic started. Without the daily commitment of these skilled and compassionate people, and of the entire Quebec community, the situation today would be much worse.  

The essential role of community agencies and their contribution must be acknowledged through a significant increase in funding and a predictable framework that will let them face the current crisis, take action, and make positive plans for the future.  

Community agencies need breathing room at a time when they are experiencing almost unbearable pressure that threatens the resilience of this essential network that has been vulnerable for far too long. Our chance of maintaining and perpetuating our social fabric as a caring society depends on it. 

For the past two years, the Quebec community network and its thousands of workers have been a true beacon during the pandemic’s interminable storm. Today, the light is dimming and time is running out. We must collectively and financially recognize the role of this vast community network right now. Because without this network, every new storm will leave incredible damage in its wake. 

The Centraides of Quebec