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Hamilton Family Services Closes

March 9, 2006 permalink

This article, lamenting the closure of Hamilton's Family Services, leaves the vital fact until the last paragraph: the agency was carrying debt from lawsuits. The article gives no clue what wrongdoing by the agency led to the debts.



Family Services closes amid tears and questions

Door notice
Barry Gray, the Hamilton Spectator

Family Services posted notice at 105 Main St. E. that it is closing.

By Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator (Mar 9, 2006)

The city and Catholic Services of Hamilton-Wentworth were moving quickly to fill the holes left after Hamilton's Family Services closed its doors yesterday.

The closure did not come as a surprise. The agency, which operates counselling, day-care and housing assistance programs, declared bankruptcy last month because of an $800,000 debt. It was a sad development for an agency that opened in Hamilton in 1923.

"I am depressed," said LaFerne Clarke, the agency's executive director who had to cancel an appointment with a doctor over stress tests to be on hand to help deliver the news to staff members at the agency's main office in the basement of Terminal Towers.

"We are 83 years old and we've helped a lot of people," she told reporters, then broke down in tears. "I worked very hard for this agency ... We have done some really good work."

The closure effects 66 employees, 60 of whom were members of Local 216 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Some had worked for the agency for decades.

"I think it's unfortunate. Employees were extremely committed to that organization," said Joe-Anne Priel, the city's general manager of public health and community services.

"It would have been a miracle to save that organization," Priel said.

City staff at Family Services' two day-care centres yesterday gave parents information about other child-care facilities where they can send their children. There are about 40 children affected.

Priel said subsidies will follow children to their new centres.

Linda Dayler, executive director of Catholic Services of Hamilton-Wentworth, said her agency was prepared to take over counselling of clients.

This included counselling for violence against women, family counselling, credit counselling and a program for children who have witnessed violence.

The city was also taking steps for clients in the housing assistance program to notify landlords of changes to lease agreements. Family Services said last night residents will not be evicted because of its shutdown.

Local 216 president Mary Long, who was an intake worker for the day-care programs, said the public needs to ask questions of councillors and MPPs about what happened to the agency and how money was spent to run it.

"It's sad. I've been here 23 years and it's hard to believe it's just come to an end. We've been treated shamelessly and so have the clients."

There appear to be a number of reasons why Family Services went under. Clarke said the agency carried debt for years because of such things as old lawsuits and it grew because it took on programs such as housing assistance that did not have sustainable funding. Priel said the agency got into money trouble when it expanded into the costly child- care business about three years ago.


Source: Hamilton Spectator