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West Island community organization fighting to save vital program

WATCH: The Family Resource Centre in Pierrefonds has relied on a grant through the federal Public Safety Department's crime prevention strategy, but their funding ended on Oct. 14. Global's Dan Spector has more.
The Family Resources Centre in Pierrefonds is fighting to stay afloat after federal government funding dried up two weeks ago.

“We just finished a five-year grant from the National Crime Prevention Canada,” explained Ron Swan, the centre’s executive director.

Now, the organization only has enough money to continue its programs until the end of the year.

“It breaks my heart,” Swan said, adding that hundreds of families rely on their services.

The community group works with families and children dealing with behavioural issues.

Especially crucial is the SNAP program.

“It’s an acronym for ‘stop now and plan,” Swan said.

“The problem is that they make very poor decisions. We help them to better manage their emotions and and to make better choices in the moment at home, at school, in the community.”

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For Isabelle Johnson, SNAP was a game-changer.

“We used the services last year for our third child who was going through some issues with his behaviour and causing lots of problems,” the mother of four said.

Johnson explained her nine-year-old was dealing with a lot of anger, wasn’t making any friends and was fighting and yelling all the time.

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The behaviour had wider ramifications.

“It was causing a major issue in our family. My husband and I were fighting about how to deal with that behaviour,” Johnson said.

The school wasn’t able to offer support because his issues weren’t considered severe enough, according to Johnson.

She was eventually referred to the SNAP program through a local health clinic.

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After that, things moved quickly.

“Within a few months, we were in the SNAP program,” Johnson said.

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Classes are held concurrently for both parents and children during the 13-week program.

“With the parent program, we we were able to get the tools in order to deal better with the issues,” Johnson said.

“On the other side, Felix learned how to deal with his emotions, breathe properly, take distance from the problem and think before he acts.”

While he still gets mad sometimes, Johnson says she’s seen a vast improvement.

“I’m much more comfortable with the future adult he’ll be,” she said.

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Johnson did express dismay the program could be shut down.

“It makes me feel extremely worried,” she said. “It’s the only program available in the West Island and the only program that gets people on board in a small [amount] of time.”

She’s not the only one expressing concern.

Terry Fox Elementary principal Douglas Stewart says his school has been relying on SNAP services for several years.

And while the school will look for other alternatives, Stewart says SNAP will be hard to beat.

“SNAP is to us a free service, to families a free service, he said.

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“They respond quickly; it is not a long waiting list. They’re very available to us.”

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Meanwhile, Stewart remains hopeful.

“I’m glad that people are taking an interest and getting the word out,” he said, but ultimately he feels like the government should step in.

“They’re going to have to step in afterwards; they’re going to be having to deal with this situation medically,” he continued.

“They’re going to have to be dealing with this situation in the criminal system, they’re going to have to be dealing with this situation in much more expensive measures if these kids don’t get the support they need at the early stage.”

Swan says the resource centre has been sending out grant applications, talking to local MPs and MNAs and reaching out to the private sector for donations.

“I’m gonna do everything I can until the very last moment,” he said.