Flamborough Snow Angels program expected to continue

Although indications are the City of Hamilton will end the volunteer Snow Angels program city-wide, it seems the service has avoided the chopping block in Flamborough.

While city staff recommended ending the city-wide program in a May 4 report to the Emergency and Community Services committee, the same report recommended continuing the Flamborough program, which is run by Flamborough Connects.

Flamborough Connects’ executive director Colleen Stinson said the organization’s understanding is there will be “no change” to the program in Flamborough — something she said is good news.

“There will be no change to the Flamborough Connects Snow Angels program,” said Stinson. “Our relationship with the City of Hamilton remains strong and we are both committed to the success of the Snow Angels program with Flamborough Connects.”

The staff report suggested providing $1,000 to Flamborough Connects to continue the Snow Angels program in Flamborough, but elsewhere in the city the recommendation was to provide an annual subsidy of $450 per qualifying homeowner, as well as running periodic public awareness campaigns to encourage residents to assist those less able to shovel after snowfalls. The goal of the subsidy, said the report, would be to pay neighbours to shovel, rather than pay for a snow removal contract and it is expected to allow up to 144 residents to procure snow removal services

However, the report was not accepted and following a motion by Coun. Tom Jackson, staff were instructed to come back to an August meeting with several options to deliver the program — either having snow removal at would-be Snow Angels clients homes done by city staff or external contractors, or the subsidy option provided in the original report.

In making the recommendation for the subsidy program in the May 4 report, staff said those receiving support from the Snow Angels program across the city has “steadily decreased” for the past several years, due to an “inability to maintain a reliable and consistent roster of volunteers.” In 2023 of 85 eligible residents, 62 were matched with a volunteer, while 23 remained unmatched.

In Flamborough over the past winter, Stinson said they had nine Snow Angels clients — and have had more requests over and above that number because of the heavy snow over the winter.

“We’re always looking for Snow Angels volunteers,” she said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for students who are looking to get their volunteer hours.”

Stinson said generally volunteers shovel between 6-8 times per year, when it snows more than 3 centimetres. They are responsible for shovelling the sidewalk in front of the home, the windrow left by the snow plow and a path to the door.

In an email, Erica Brimley, the city’s human service manager of the Ontario Works program — which administers the Snow Angels program outside of Flamborough — said while the May 4 report recommended changed from the volunteer model to a subsidy model, that was not accepted by council. She said staff will present other snow removal options for seniors and people with disabilities to the Emergency and Community Services committee, targeting August 2023.

“As it stands currently, the Snow Angels program has not changed its service delivery model and is not ending,” Brimley said, adding any further questions will be addressed “by way of council’s prerogative.”

In Flamborough, Stinson said the Snow Angels program is a “really good opportunity” for Flamborough Connects to help people who are aging or disabled to age in place and stay safely in their own home.

“The volunteering spirit in Flamborough is strong,” she said. “There’s a helping mentality in Flamborough where people want to help each other.”

Longtime Waterdown Snow Angels volunteer Jeff Cripps said he is glad to hear the program will continue in Flamborough.

“It’s too bad they’re thinking about stopping it in other parts of the city,” he said. “Our clients always appreciate it — and I’m sure they did downtown and in other areas.”

Cripps, who had two clients over the past winter and works as a team with his two sons, said they started volunteering with the program when his sons — who are now 21 and 25 — were in high school.

“We try to get out together, but if one can’t go the other goes,” he said.

He said the clients are what make the work worthwhile.

“They let us know that they appreciate the effort,” he said. “It’s always nice — especially if you get the same client year after year and get to know the people a little bit.

“It’s really good to be able to give back and as long as we’re physically able to help them, we’ll sign up for sure.”

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