06/19/2015 04:51 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT

Montreal crisis line Tel-Aide may have to shut down

Tel-Aide, a bilingual Montreal crisis line that's been operating since 1971, is at risk of shutting down because of lack of funds.

Tel-Aide president Pierre Riley said the service has a $50,000 deficit that it can't afford to pay.

"Definitely we cannot handle a deficit of $50,000.  We don't have any money in the bank,"  Riley told CBC in an interview Friday.

Lifeline for the lonely

Since 1971, Tel-aide volunteers have answered more than two million calls from people in distress.  The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Forty-four per cent of the calls is loneliness — people who need to talk because they're alone.  A lot of the time the only person they talk to is a volunteer at Tel-Aide," Riley said.

Volunteers do not provide formal counselling.  Riley said their main role is to listen, and sometimes to refer people in distress to other health services.

Donations down

Tel-aide's annual budget is $250,000.  Riley said $114,000 comes from the province, and the rest from businesses, foundations and private donations.

He said donations are down, and the province hasn't increased its contribution since 2007.

"They said, 'We don't have any more money to give than what we're already giving you,'" Riley said.

Tel-Aide has now launched an urgent fundraising campaign.  Riley said they will also continue to lobby the province to come up with more money.