Families struggling to buy now-unaffordable necessities strain non-profits’ dwindling resources


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As Winnipeggers feel the pinch of inflation, local non-profits are coping with a new and difficult reality: more people need help but fewer people have the means to give.

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As Winnipeggers feel the pinch of inflation, local non-profits are coping with a new and difficult reality: more people need help but fewer people have the means to give.

Faced with the rising cost of living, non-profit leaders say more are turning to community organizations to secure basic necessities. For those facing significant financial hardship, little is left for other basic needs after buying groceries.

“Furniture, clothing, household items, appliances, cars, you name it — there’s nothing they don’t take here. It’s everything and anything,” said Gilbert Vielfaure, executive director of Centre Flavie.


Emma Finebilt, executive director of Wolseley Family Place, with some of their donations in Winnipeg.

Located on the outskirts of St. Boniface, Centre Flavie serves as many as 100 families a day who pick up furniture, clothing and other necessities. The constant demand has pushed the organization to move to a new, larger location later this month.

“It’s always steady. It never slows down,” Vielfaure said.

The West Central Women’s Resource Centre is also working hard to fill the gaps in their communities. Mareike Brunelli, the director of community services at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, said clientele relies on the organization for basic necessities, such as hygiene items.

Lately, it’s been difficult to ensure there’s enough to go around.

“We are really short on tampons and pads, which has never been the case,” Brunelli said. “I think this inflation economic situation out there in the public is impacting people’s ability to donate even the items we’ve never been low on.”

Brunelli said families on fixed incomes are increasingly forced to make tough decisions about what to spend their meagre budgets on. When COVID-19 restrictions began to lift, the women’s resource centre began reconnecting with clients who’d been out of touch. Many, Brunelli said, were still in desperate need of help.

“With increasing prices for everything, including and especially food these days, it’s a very difficult decision that these families have to make,” she said. “Folks still need to spend a lot of their income on food and then they’re left without so many other needs that are still basic and necessary.”


The diaper and formula cabinet, with many items not available, at Wolseley Family Place in Winnipeg.

As the executive director of the Wolseley Family Place, Emma Fineblit knows low-income parents are hurting right now.

Families in the community come to the organization to pick up items such as diapers, baby wipes and strollers. For some, these are things they can no longer afford after covering groceries and other basic expenses.

“We’ve definitely been seeing a growing demand,” Fineblit said. “We’re finding it hard to keep up with. It’s more than we’ve ever budgeted for in the past.”

During the first waves of the pandemic, many non-profit organizations benefited from emergency funding offered by the federal government. In April 2020, and again in October 2020, Ottawa dedicated $350 million to charities and non-profits that help vulnerable people.

Fineblit said the funding was easy to access and quick to obtain, which helped the organizations better serve their client base.

“We were able, during that time, for example, to double the amount of food hampers that we had given out in the past because of those emergency COVID funds,” she said. “Most of those have dried up now, so we don’t have the same access to those kinds of supports, especially for basic needs.”

The West Central Women’s Resource Centre also received COVID-19 emergency funding. While Brunelli said most funds have been discontinued, the high demand for services has not.


Mareike Brunelli, director of community services, West Central Women’s Resource Centre said hygiene products are in high demand, as many are spending the little they have on food and rent.

Each of the organizations stressed the fact that they’re always seeking donations of both items and cash. Necessities, including hygiene products, toothbrushes and shampoo are always in high demand at the facility. Donations of strollers, diapers and baby wipes will help families seeking support through Wolseley Family Place get back on their feet.

“We’d be happy to take them and pass them on to a family who could use them,” Fineblit said. “With the cost of living and people’s limited incomes not going as far, people are looking for whatever resources they can.”


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