A charity that helps vulnerable Calgarians access essential, free hygiene items is packing up and getting ready to shut down due to lack of funding.
Soap for Hope YYC told Global News it started with hope six years ago. Now it’s ending with sadness.
“It’s devastating actually,” program director Tanaya Jilg said.
“We help thousands and thousands of people in our community every year. Unfortunately, lots of people are going to have to go without.”
The non-profit itself has gone without for the past couple of years. In the past it relied heavily on the hotel industry for its funding and supplies such as soap, shampoo, hand wash and feminine hygiene products. But Jilg said the COVID-19 pandemic paused many of those corporate partnerships.
“That funding completely dried up as the hotel industry wasn’t able to operate. They were closed or operating at less than 10 per cent,” she said. “So in 2020 and 2021, we actually never billed any of our hotels on our program.”
“Unfortunately, due to demand, both of our grants were declined,” Jilg said.
Global News reached out to the city to find out why the grant was denied.
A spokesperson told us the group applied for the Capacity-Building Fund and unfortunately the application was “not supported.” They went on to say Soap for Hope “…sought funding for operational costs, initiatives related to emergency response, the provision of basic needs and capital costs, all of which are not eligible for this fund.”
The city added it attempted to connect the charity with other sources of funding but was not successful.
The Calgary Foundation replied that it did help out Soap for Hope — twice — during the pandemic. Unfortunately, it was not able to help a third time. It also pointed out it granted $66.9 million to 1,100 charitable organizations last year.
“The needs of our community are significant, and the demand on our community grants program significantly outweighs our available budget,” said Jason Bates, the vice-president of grants and community initiatives.
Advocacy groups react
Soap for Hope serves more than 100 community facilities, Indigenous communities, churches, schools and hospitals in the province.
One of the groups it has collaborated with in the past is the Alberta Alliance Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly (AAWEAR). Lauren Cameron, AAWEAR’s peer navigation co-ordinator, told Global News the closure comes at a time when Calgary’s struggling population needs help the most.
“What I’m seeing on street outreach is there is a major need,” Cameron said. “We’re going to be missing shampoo, conditioner, soap, cloths, tampons, pads.”
Cameron added that buying these essential items is not in the budget for many, and some may resort to unsanitary options — choosing between health and money.
“Health shouldn’t be a luxury for them.”
Jilg couldn’t agree more.
“People don’t think about that when they think about food and shelter as essentials. Hygiene is equally as important.”
Soap for Hope is set to close sometime next week, unless a donor comes forward with $150,000 in funding.
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