Demand from N.S. poor for home heating help is swamping relief system

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
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TRURO - High furnace oil prices combined with this winter's cold temperatures are placing extreme demand on the Salvation Army's heating assistance program.
Last year, from the beginning of January until the end of April, the army's Truro branch processed a total of 47 applications for its Good Neighbour Energy Program.
This year, after only one month, 56 applications have already come in, said Arlene Stevens, the army's community and family services co-ordinator for Truro and area.
''It's actually gotten to the point where every story lately is so sad that I don't even want to answer my phone,'' she said. ''I don't want to come to work, I don't want to deal with this anymore because I can't help.''
The Good Neighbour Energy Fund is provided by Nova Scotia Power and administered by the Salvation Army. It's available to any Nova Scotia family facing an emergency financial situation and requiring assistance for any type of home heating, including firewood, coal, fuel oil, propane and electricity.
With almost 95 per cent of all requests coming from families who heat their homes with oil, however, this year's escalated fuel prices are creating unprecedented demand.
''And the funds are low so it's not going to be good,'' Stevens said.
For each of the past two years, NS Power has provided approximately $300,000 in annual funding, allowing the army to provide assistance to about 1,000 families.
This year, however, the utility decreased funding to $146,000, meaning that assistance will only be provided to about 400 families across the province.
Stevens said her ''greatest clientele'' are the working poor - low-income earners who because of their increased heating costs can't make ends meet without assistance.

Organizations: Salvation Army, Good Neighbour Energy Fund, Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:31

    Move west young people and let the aged boomers take over and create the retirment Towns they so sorely desire.

  • karen
    January 18, 2010 - 10:29

    This is such a sad story, when will the government learn that the working poor is what voted them into office to begin with and now they turn their backs and wont give them any money to heat their homes. What is it going to take for the government to actually take a look at these Nova Scotians in order for them to hand out the money to help? It's not like the money would come out of their own pockets (but sometimes most social service workers thinks it does). Everyone knows the government has the money but refuses to pay out and why because they might save a few bucks for their pockets. Come on its time for the government to get a clue.