Grassroots Kind Hearts has been looking for a place out of the elements to serve their nightly dinners to the less fortunate for a long time.
But this week, during the city’s deliberations on next year’s budget, council decided to fund the Radiant Life Church “up to $10,000” to open their doors to host the group inside through the end of April.
The agreement comes after council received a request from pastor Art Van Holst of Radiant Life Nov. 28 saying they would like to host the group inside their facility downtown but financial constraints make it impossible.
Led by founding director Krisandra Rufus, the Grassroots Kind Hearts dinner program has been serving meals to people in need since spring 2015. During the winter of 2015-16, the society had temporary access to serve dinner from the Radiant Life Church.
While council was discussing the use of some of their annual contingency budget on Monday during financial planning, Coun. Ron Kerr suggested they look at also using some of that money to support the church in hosting the nightly dinners.
“They’ve been delivering dinners for the last number of years feeding, on average, upwards of 50 persons nightly, and that’s men, women and children,” Kerr said. “Last winter, they served dinner outside in the snow, the rain, the wind, outdoors and this year, Radiant Life has offered to open their facility.”
The city will pay Radiant Life $62.50 per night to open their doors for the Grassroots dinners. Should they open every night for five months, as is the plan, it would cost the city $9,687.50.
Coun. Larry Samson asked if this amount was to fund the dinner program, as well, but was informed it was simply for the use of the church for two hours per night – from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
The financial support from the city will come from the portion of unspent 2017 contingency fund money being carried over into 2018 and will therefore have no direct impact on the current budget deliberations.
“Since spring 2016, the city has been supporting this important social program by providing secure access next to the downtown fire hall as well as portable washroom facilities and waste services,” Mayor Andy Adams said in a release after budget deliberations ended Monday. “During this time, the city has continued to explore possible options for a dinner program location with Island Health and a number of local social service providers and arranged meetings with other agencies to help the society find a more suitable location.
“With colder, wetter weather, the move to a well-equipped indoor location will be most welcome for the people who come for meals as well as for the people setting up and serving dinner,” Adams continued. “We appreciate the cooperative agreement that sees Grassroots Kind Hearts supplying meal service, Radiant Life Church providing an indoor location and the city covering costs of using the building.”