Demand greater than ever for home heating assistance, says Salvation Army

Nancy MacPhee
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SUMMERSIDE — Calls are already coming in for a home heating assistance program that doesn’t begin until January.

Paul Vander Velden of Noonan Petroleum makes his last stop of the day at a city residence before it’s off to Charlottetown to refill his truck for next week. Noonan Petroleum will be helping the Salvation Army by making deliveries for its home heating assistance program.

Those calls lead the Salvation Army’s Karen Mallett to believe that the demand for its home heating assistance program, which has been in existence since 2008, will be greater than ever this winter.

“I have been fielding five to six phone calls a day. It does shock me that there is that many calling, but I am not surprised,” said the Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator. “We gave it all away in two days last year. I would say it is going to be on par or gone faster than last year given the amount of calls we have been receiving.”

Late last week, the province announced it would commit, moving forward, slightly more than $121,000 in its annual budget to the program, with the money to be split between Salvation Army locations in Summerside and Charlottetown.

The Salvation Army in Summerside, as it did last year, will receive $40,000.

“As long as I’m minister, it is in the budget,” said Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty of government’s commitment to funding the program.

Unfortunately, she noted, the amount committed by the province likely won’t change in the foreseeable future.

 “Increasing (the amount) is not going to happen,” said Docherty. “We are really fortunate on Prince Edward Island that between the Petroleum Association, as well as private donations, they have been getting more help, more than just our $121,000.”

Suggestions have also been made by some to reduce the one-time delivery amount recipients receive. Last year, throughout the Island, the $121,000 the province committed helped 270 households.

“If we reduced it to help more, those really in need, they will run out before the cold weather is over. That is sort of our reasoning for staying around the 400 litres,” added Docherty. “We also know that there are some individuals or families because we had the program since 2008 that are budgeting for it because their funds are so limited.

“We want to make sure the commitment is there on an ongoing basis without Islanders having to wonder is it coming this year or is it not coming this year?”

Currently, oil is at 111.8 cents per litre after taking a four-cent-per-litre jump over the weekend. This time last year, oil was at $1.06 per litre and, in December 2012, $1.05 per litre, which was 33 cents per litre higher than in 2011.

Mallett said although the demand and need is out there now for the program, the Summerside Salvation Army won’t begin taking applications until Jan. 13.

Anyone applying must have a copy of their most recent income tax return, health-care cards for each member of the household, the expiry date and tag number for their oil tank and must not be in receipt of social assistance or living in low-income housing.

Last year, on the morning applications were first taken, there was a lineup outside the Salvation Army’s door.

“It’s a challenge to decide who needs it the most. You really have to sit and look at these applications and figure out why one person would be more deserving than the other when you have only $40,000 and it is gone in two days,” said Mallett. “It’s not based on first come first serve. It’s based on the greatest need.”

The P.E.I. Petroleum Marketer’s Association, in recent years, has contributed thousands of litres of home heating oil to the program and there have been donations from individual suppliers.

While grateful for the province’s support and the help from the P.E.I. Petroleum Marketer’s Association, Mallett wishes there was more money to go around.

And so does Docherty.

“I know it is not going to be enough. I am aware of that,” said the minister.

She said there are provincial programs available that can help eligible Islanders make their homes more energy efficient. Details of the province’s new home renovation program, added Docherty, will likely be released in the coming weeks.

“You are caught, too, between wanting to do more and knowing or wondering am I creating an expectation now so that people don’t try to figure out alternative solutions,” said the minister. “Our role is to work with families and individuals to make sure that we assist them with the best decisions possible on what they can do for their property and making it more comfortable for the wintertime.”

When asked if her government is contemplating possibly offering a home-heating rebate for Islanders, Docherty wasn’t sure, adding it was a question that should be directed to Finance Minister Wes Sheridan.



Organizations: The Salvation Army, Community Services, Petroleum Association P.E.I. Petroleum Marketer

Geographic location: Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

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