One of North America’s largest HIV/AIDS libraries, managed by AIDS Vancouver, closed last month due to declining government funds and private donations.
This is just the beginning, warns AIDS Vancouver’s executive director, David Swan.
“We’ve had a shortfall of funding over the course of the last few years. A number of our programs at AIDS Vancouver have been dismissed,” Swan says.
According to Swan, much of AIDS Vancouver’s budget is provided by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).
“VCH provides a little bit of money to the library, to our support program, and to the grocery program, but doesn’t fully fund any of those three. We make up the rest of those budgets in donations. In the last few years, we’ve just been getting ourselves in a tighter and tighter position with programming.”
Government funding is program and project specific. VCH provided 40 percent of the library’s funding, the rest coming from other private pockets including Swan himself.
With limited funding, support programs such as the grocery program had to take priority.
“It’s a Sophie’s Choice nightmare,” Swan says, noting that resources were directed to support and peer-driven programming.
Funding for the library was scheduled to run out at the end of September.
VCH has launched contract reviews with community programs across Vancouver in an attempt to deal with budget concerns created by the current economic climate.
“We have a budget of $9 billion for Vancouver Coastal Health,” explains VCH spokesperson Anne Marie D’Angelo. “It’s actually more money than we received last year, but still was not enough to cover all our operations, including salaries, maintenance, medical equipment, that kind of thing. So we had a budget shortfall of $90 million.
“We were aware this shortfall was happening right off the bat this fiscal year in March, and we made over $23 million with administrative cuts,” D’Angelo says. “Then we embarked on a review of our contracts throughout the region.
“We could have easily just cut $90 million from some area but we decided not to do that,” she adds.
In an attempt to diversify their funding base, AIDS Vancouver decided to bring in part-time communications and fund development staff person, Fleur Cooper. Cooper spent the last two months looking for corporate and private funding options.
“We’re bracing ourselves for more cuts in the future. It’s not just our organization, but many out there, and not just our library, but many libraries are being cut as well. The funds are just drying up because of the economic situation,” Cooper says.
The nearly 25-year-old library is now closed and replaced by a resource centre. The plan is to have different resources still available and have programs and services like ESL lessons in place.
The books themselves will be kept in storage for now.
“We are expecting more cuts from VCH which means we are going to have to rely on more community dollars,” Cooper says. “We should expect to know by around Oct 15 what these cuts look like and where they’ll have to be directed.
“We can’t really comment because we don’t know. Yes, it is going to have a deep impact on us unfortunately, but we are committed to finding other funds and keeping AIDS Vancouver alive and relevant.”