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Riverside Mission desperately needs financial support for new building, executive director says

'We’ve got an old building that is in dire need of being replaced. We want to build a state-of-the-art facility that will serve that community for many, many years. And we just need a better response'

Riverside Mission desperately requires community support and funding if it hopes to construct a new building to better meet the needs of Moose Jaw’s less fortunate people, its executive director says.

The non-profit is doing OK even though it operates in a 100-year-old building that needs to be replaced immediately because it’s expensive to maintain — and because of pests, said Joe Miller, executive director of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission (SHRM), which oversees Riverside Mission.

The organization closed its men’s emergency shelter and kitchen and dining room from Sept. 24 to Oct. 3 to fumigate for cockroaches. Hiring a professional company would have cost $25,000 for one day, so Riverside Mission staff will perform the job over three days for roughly $5,000. 

This is the first major shutdown for Riverside Mission because of cockroaches, although SHRM temporarily shuttered the men’s shelter a few years ago to battle bed bugs.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army said it would provide suppers for the week to cover Riverside Mission’s closure. Once it re-opens, it’s first major meal will be the Thanksgiving Supper on Thursday, Oct. 6.

Fundraising campaign

SHRM’s fundraising campaign to generate $4.5 million for a new emergency shelter in Moose Jaw is doing very poorly, Miller said. 

The Regina-based non-profit applied to the Saskatchewan Housing Authority (SHA) for $1.2 million, but the SHA denied the request. Instead, it recommended that the charity submit a joint application to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHA) and SHA for support. 

Furthermore, inflation has added another 20 per cent — or $900,000 — to the project and increased the cost to $5.4 million.

“That’s the reality of the world we live in right now,” said Miller. 

While SHRM has set aside $1.2 million, it has received a poor response from the community, he continued. So far, it has received $40,000 from The Mosaic Company, $10,000 from a Regina donor and $7,500 from a local church for a total of $57,500.

Meanwhile, the non-profit held two fundraisers in Moose Jaw, including a 50/50 that barely broke even and a banquet that, while well-attended, generated only $5,000.

“I’ve had to cancel a radiothon because I just have no faith — we’ve lost faith … ,” said Miller. “It’s going to come down to how badly Moose Jaw wants this project. 

“We’ve got an old building that is in dire need of being replaced. We want to build a state-of-the-art facility that will serve that community for many, many years. And we just need a better response.”

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More support needed

SHRM is willing to take out a loan to finance the project — which it did for its new Regina building — but requires support from the provincial and federal governments, he continued. 

Moreover, it needs more support from Moose Jaw’s business community. While Miller has received many calls from contractors willing to help with construction, none have said they would give big donations.

What’s frustrating to Miller is city hall may be souring on the building’s proposed location. 

Backlash to project

He says he received a call from Mayor Clive Tolley, who allegedly asked if SHRM would trade the current location — 212 and 218 River Street West — for another property because the business community allegedly doesn’t want the new venue near the Events Centre. 

The proposed location would then be turned into parking.

Miller was unwilling to trade the property, pointing out the charity has already invested $300,000 into it, received council’s permission to re-zone the property, and received enthusiastic support from council.

“Nobody showed up at that council meeting in opposition to the build or coming with concerns about the building,” he added.

Connecting with donors

SHRM continues to regularly connect with Moose Jaw’s donor base by sending out fundraising letters and packages, while it also communicates with the business community. 

“We are a non-profit and we are taking care of Moose Jaw’s most marginalized citizens,” Miller said. “… I would hope that the community is in support of that and wants to be a part of that as well.”

Riverside Mission continues to see increased numbers of clients and higher costs for meat, fruits, and vegetables. However, Miller says the organization will catch a financial break for a while because local gardeners will donate plenty of their produce.

Miller said he is confident the project will proceed, even though construction was supposed to start this past summer. Since the latest funding application will take five months for approval, shovels will likely start digging next spring, which puts the project a full year behind schedule.

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