News / Edmonton

Edmonton councillors vote to lobby province for funds for Green Shack program

Edmonton city councillors want to see some green put back into the Green Shack program.

At a meeting of city council’s community services committee on Tuesday, councillors made a motion and voted in favour of Mayor Stephen Mandel sending a letter to the province, asking them to re-evaluate their decision to cut funding to the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP), which operates the Green Shack program.

The program puts green shacks in parks around the city that offer games, sports, crafts, music, drama and special events on a drop-in basis.

This spring, the Alberta government announced it would be eliminating STEP, resulting in a $275,000 shortfall for the program.

“The Green Shack programs in each neighbourhood, especially in some of our more challenged neighbourhoods, are there for the kids,” said Coun. Dave Loken. “And some of these kids’ … parents aren’t able to afford the summer camp or the summer holiday, so this is their holiday.

“This is what they do in the summer.”

According to a city report, there were 275,000 daily visits by children between the ages of six and 12 to Green Shack programs in 180 communities across Edmonton in 2012.

The program has also employed many youth, including Loken’s sons.

“It’s not only important for employing some of our younger people as well, and helping them along, but it’s more important for the kids in those neighbourhoods,” he said.

The program has been a partnership between community leagues and other community organizations ($575,000), the City of Edmonton ($800,000), the Province of Alberta ($275,000), and the Federal Government ($200,000).

A one-time funding agreement for $150,000 was put in place for this year post-budget, meaning community groups – after making additional financial contributions – have been able to continue the program across Edmonton on a full or part time basis, though the shortfall will remain in 2014 and beyond.

“For this year we should be ok, but it’s next year that’s in question right now,” said Loken.

Loken would like to see the province step up, otherwise other groups or even the city.

“I think we have to find a way to do this. And some of the other councillors said we can’t continue to bail out the province every time they cut something but, at the end of the day, this is a program that affects people, real people – and kids.

“What’s more important out there than our children?”

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