Today is the day that the Salvation Army, both here in Summerside and in Charlottetown, begins taking applications for its home heating program.
The program is aimed at offering a one-time 400-litre delivery of oil to applicants who meet its criteria. For many, the program comes at that time during the winter when they are struggling to make ends meet, especially after the holidays and when the temperatures have dipped and fuel costs are high.
According to the Summerside Salvation Army there are more and more people who are finding it difficult to heat their homes, even some who are often faced with the choice whether to buy food or buy oil.
And, for many working poor and even those with two incomes, coming up with the money to purchase the minimum amount of home heating fuel that most companies will deliver is a difficult and often impossible task.
It’s something that leaves many with no other option than to grab jerry cans and head to a gas station that sells oil by the litre just like they do gas or diesel.
Last year, it only took the Summerside Salvation Army two days to spend the $40,000 it receives for the home heating program. The Charlottetown Salvation Army receives the balance of the $121,000, which the province has now committed will be in its annual budget for the program, to help those in need in Kings and Queens counties.
Unfortunately, the Summerside Salvation Army expects that $40,000 to go even faster than it did last year and that people will be lined up outside their doors this morning waiting to fill out an application in hopes of getting an emergency oil delivery.
With changes to the employment insurance program, high electricity costs, the cost of food rising and the price per litre of home heating oil now at $1.15 per litre – nine cents a litre higher than it was this time last year – there is no doubt that more people will need help this winter.
But the fact of the matter is, according to officials at the Salvation Army, there likely won’t be enough to fill that need, which means that some who need it may be literally left out in the cold.
Maybe a home heating oil rebate would be another way that the provincial government could look at helping out Islanders faced with the choice between heating and eating.
Obviously, there is more that needs to be done to ensure our neighbours in need don’t have to be cold this winter.
No one should have to choose between heating their home and feeding their family.