12/21/2012 10:23 EST | Updated 02/20/2013 05:12 EST

Downtown Eastside outreach centre staff sings for money

An outreach program on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside plans to sing Christmas carols for donations today in the hopes of making up a funding shortfall.

Watari Youth, Community and Family Services is facing a $137,000 shortfall.

The program, which helps get youth off the street and into supportive housing, needs at least $35,000 to keep two outreach workers going for the next three months.

"There are very few youth services available to young people in the Downtown Eastside and in fact, ours has the only physical presence," says executive director Michelle Fortin.

She and staff members plan to sing Christmas carols for donations outside Waterfront Station on Friday.

"This is singing for survival," she said.

"Listen, these are young people under the age of 19. They are absolutely vulnerable and at risk being in the community and not knowing how to negotiate their way out or their way into safety."

Watari is not alone when it comes to a lack of money for charities.

There are 8,000 registered charities in B.C., and the Vancouver Foundation helps raise funds for many of them.

"We had $7 million worth of requests for funding and we only had $1 million to give out," foundation president and CEO Faye Wightman said of the demand this fall.

Wightman says a lack of government money, demand for services and competition among charities has created a tough environment for agencies.