By Kyra Gillespie
A funding drought is threatening to permanently close the 4C’s Crisis Relief Centre – Pakenham’s key emergency relief hub.
Servicing the community’s most vulnerable for the last 21 years, the largely volunteer-run not-for-profit has been unable to secure long-term funding at any government level, and faces permanent closure as a result.
Despite Christmas being the busiest time of year for the crisis centre, they are closing their doors at the end of November.
“We simply can’t keep up with the running cost; that’s why we’ve had to make the difficult decision to close early,” 4C’s Manager Cheryl Daly said.
“Christmas is our busiest time of year – every year we provide hampers with food and toys for families in need but this year we simply can’t stay open – we haven’t got the means to.”
Meeting with staff at the Pakenham site on Monday 19 November, Bass MP Brian Paynter promised that the Liberal Party would provide a total of $200,000 over four years to the 4C’s if a state Liberal Government is elected.
“The 4C’s is one of the pillars of the Cardinia community helping some of its most vulnerable members,” Mr Paynter said.
“I am pleased to be able to make this commitment to help those that help so many.”
While the election promised was welcomed, Ms Daly said it would only be a bandaid fix.
“This is the first time we’ve ever received state funding, and while Brian’s announcement is wonderful it will only help to keep us open short-term. We require secure, long-term funding for a growing, long-term need.
“At the moment we are running day by day; our client numbers have increased 15 per cent yet our income has dropped by 19 per cent.
“We’re like an elastic band and we have to ask ourselves – how far can we keep stretching?”
The 4C’s provide emergency finance, food relief, emergency accommodation, clothing, bedding, budgeting and financial advice, debt liaison, crisis and long term counselling to those in need.
Last year the 4C’s distributed 330,000 kilos of food and helped over 12,500 local families. Committee member Simon Allars said those figures continue to rise year on year.
“We currently have up to 30 families a day coming through our food room for a fortnightly shop,” Mr Allars said.
“Many families in the area are only one pay packet away from eviction, and we are helping more homeless than ever before.”
For the last four years the centre received $153,000 of federal funding per annum, which runs out at the end of 2018. While they have reapplied, there is no guarantee that they will secure the funding for the New Year.
That funding only covers a third of their costs.
“We need $350,000 to $500,000 year to support all the families who come through our doors,” Ms Daly said.
All other costs rely on community fundraising activities such as Bunnings sausage sizzles and their yearly Antiques Fair.
The centre has been lobbying council for over 18 months to try and secure additional funding – without any success.
“Cardinia council cover our rent annually but that’s it – they make no financial contribution to the work of 4C’s and there is no commitment in writing for next year. We are overdue with rent and rates and have received warnings from the real estate agent,“ Ms Daly said.
“The population of Cardinia Shire continues to increase with no plan for helping those in crisis. It’s a town planning issue, yet it does not appear to be a priority for the council.
“We acknowledge the financial support of council for our rent, but we are extremely disappointed that they do not recognise the size of the problem in their community.
“There will be a large flow-on effect if 4C’s doesn’t operate in 2019. Where else will these people go for help?”
Council’s Acting General Manager for Community Wellbeing Kristen Jackson defended council’s contributions.
“Council has paid for the rent of the 4C’s premises since 2009 (a total of around $550,000 over the years), and last year recommitted to funding the rent of the premises (approx. $50,000 per annum), including CPI increases and outgoings,“ Ms Jackson said.
“These kinds of valuable community services often require the support of all levels of government, and Council will continue to work with the 4C’s to assist in identifying potential grant opportunities and in supporting these fundraising efforts.
“Additional support would be a matter for consideration by council as part of future budget deliberations.“
Bass Labor candidate Jordan Crugnale has vowed to work with the centre on a long-term solution if elected.
“Recently I was involved in the 4C’s fundraiser in Pakenham and I know the considerable work they undertake in the community, and its importance,” Ms Crugnale said.
“With days to go until to the election, I would like time to properly understand their financial situation, and work with them on a long term solution, rather than write a one off cheque that will not provide the organisation the ongoing capacity to do their important work.
“I look forward to meeting 4C’s Crises Centre team after the election, should I be successful.”
The 4C’s are accepting donations at www.gofundme.com/4CsCrisisCentre