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News brief. Ally Centre in Sydney may well be forced to close

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Ally Centre, a Sydney-based organization that supports drug users and people who have unsafe sex may well close its doors for good, possibly as early as March of next year.

Christine Porter, executive director of the Ally Centre of Cape Breton. Photo Ally Centre.

The news of a potential funding cut first arose late in September. At that time federal Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking, a Liberal, promised to do what he could to keep the Ally Centre open.

It now appears that effort was not successful. Yesterday Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, confirmed that the federal government will end its funding of $150,000 to the organization, which has been around for the last 23 years.

“This decision was not based on performance, this decision is based on go forward new priorities,” Taylor told CBC Mainstreet Cape Breton‘s host Wendy Bergfeldt.

In the interview Taylor suggests that the federal government may be able to come up with a couple of months worth of bridge funding, but that is it.

Christine Porter, the Ally Centre’s executive director, believes that the closure will have a devastating effect on its marginalized and stigmatized clients.

“We’re in shock,” Porter told Local Xpress reporter Andrew Rankin. “The Ally Centre is the hub for so many of our community’s disenfranchised. That money is what administers all of our programs. So it puts all of them in jeopardy: our needle exchange program, anonymous HIV testing, our medical clinic, our food bank, all of that stuff.

During the 2014-15 fiscal year, the Ally Centre supplied 623,000 syringes across Cape Breton, 140,000 more than the previous year. Porter told the Local Xpress that the Ally Centre sees anywhere from 30 to 50 people a day.

Dr. Taylor suggested that the Ally Centre look for provincial funding, and may receive some support from other organizations.

That may be a bit of an uphill battle.

Last week the Nova Scotia Advocate reported that the Mainline Needle Exchange, in ways the Ally Centre’s mainland counterpart, is facing budget issues as well, and has not yet received a response after it appealed for additional provincial funding.

Meanwhile current and former clients are worried.

“I’m 24 years old and was addicted to opiates. If it wasn’t for this place and them helping with clean Rigs (needles) and cotton and so on, I would of have most likely became HEP-C or even HIV positive,” sates one commenter on the Ally Centre’s Facebook page.  “So you can say this place has saved my life and most likely other people’s They’ve also helped me with schooling and other things. Please don’t let this place close, get them the funding they need. Thank you.”

“I am 24 years old and a mother of two who has been struggling with addiction for 6-7 years of my life,” writes another client. “I am currently on Methadone and unemployed. I didn’t do much with my life until I found this place, they have helped me in so many ways. A lot of people need this place. It’s a place where you can go to for so many different things, go see the doctor get to talk to people without being judged.

“I honestly don’t know all the services but every time I have a problem they are always here to help no matter what the problem is. I could go on all day of how they can help people and continue to help me but all I’m asking is to please help them get funding. I, as do a lot of people, need this place. Thank you.”

The Centre is encouraging its supporters to contact federal, provincial and municipal politicians to address the funding shortfall.  Click here for a form letter and a list of suggested contact.

The Nova Scotia NDP has called on the provincial government to step up to the plate.

Like the Ally Centre on Facebook.