Heat Bank Haliburton County (HBHC) says it struggled through its busiest winter yet.
The Heat Bank 2016/17 winter “heating season” came to an end on March 31st and statistics show it was the busiest one to date. On average, Heat Bank Haliburton County says it responded to one heat or hydro related emergency per day.
“It was the busiest season I have experienced in my years working with heating programs like this.” says Tina Jackson, Heat Bank coordinator. “Nearly 90 loads of wood were distributed throughout the County. Two of the five “Wood Banks” ran very low or ran out this winter and funds were stretched.”
HBHC is an emergency fuel program overseen by the Central Food Network. The Heat Bank collects cuts and seasons wood at five sites around the County. It also provides assistance with Low Income Energy Assistance Program, Ontario electrical Support Program applications, offers client workshops, client case management and various programs making it the only agency of its kind in North America. 100% of funds raised are used to assist clients with heating related emergencies.
Over 20% of the 238 people assisted were seniors and nearly 35% of cases involved children. While help was provided County-wide, the Highlands East (37.1%) and Minden Hills (31.4%) areas were the two regions where most clients resided.
The need to supply Heating oil and propane was also up sharply this winter. Central Food Network and key partner, the 4C’s, stepped up to help meet the increased demand.
As one of the only intake agencies for LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program) and OESP (Ontario Electrical Support Program) programs in the area, Heat Bank also saw a large increase in the number of applications it assisted clients with. In addition to assisting over 40 households with Hydro related emergencies, the agency says it also prepared and submitted 12 LEAP and 14 OESP applications on behalf of clients.
Preparations are already underway for the 2017/18 Heating season. A volunteer cutting and splitting day is planned to restock all of the regional wood banks and fund raising efforts are starting up to meet the anticipated need. “Each year we have seen the number of people needing help increase. There’s no reason to believe next winter will be any different.” says John Teljeur, Central Food Network President. We’re going to need volunteers and donations to keep helping people.”
Teljeur says they are willing to help other municipalities set up a similar program help residents who are struggling.