On Oct 19th, #KitchenerCouncil will meet for the Community and Infrastructure Services committee where they will look at the following recommendation that will advance the city’s work on equity, anti-racism, and Indigenous initiatives, and other social justice issues. Here is staff's recommendation:
The Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consists of ~30 community members and ~15 staff, and was formed in 2019. Councillors Marsh and Singh, and the mayor also sit on this committee.
The staff report outlines some of the initiatives that have been implemented (or will soon be due to delays from the pandemic) including: staff EDI training, the city’s first Workforce Census, on-demand interpretation services for residents, and the collection of demographic info on Engage Kitchener surveys.
The report also provides updates on other projects: Indigenous opportunities for the Huron Natural Area and Kitchener’s Housing Strategy.
The report goes on to outline one of the major issues that is to be addressed through the task force: the lack of any paid city staff working specifically on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion or other social justice issues such as poverty and homelessness.
Several recent events are noted in the report as ‘solidifying and accelerating’ this work: the June 3rd Black Lives Matter march, the establishment of the O:se Kenhionhata:tie (Land Back) camp in Victoria Park, and the development of the Lot 42 Better Tent City (Shout out to folks involved in these things – you’re affecting real change!)
Several factors, outlined in the report, contributing to the urgent need for staff in these areas include: the Truth and Reconciliation Report; the Ontario Human Rights Code; the city’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work plan, and the city’s Housing Strategy.
From the report: “Staff are recommending the creation of an Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives team that would provide the city and city council with dedicated leadership, expertise, and senior level competencies in issues of equity, anti-racism, discrimination, Indigenous initiatives, and other social justice issues”.
This team would include: a Director, Senior Indigenous Advisor, Senior Anti-Racism Advisor, Analyst, and a Social Planning Associate.
Staff recommend that the hiring of a Director happens presently, ideally before the end of 2020. The other roles would then be filled in 2021, under the guidance of that Director.
The financial implications of creating these new Full-Time staff positions are outlined In the report as costing an estimated $556,000 (but that impact can be spread out over 2 years given the phased-in hiring).
If you'd like to see the city progress on these issues, you can let them know by emailing them. Or you can use this template that will allow you to email everyone at once. (Side note: individual emails often are given more weight by elected officials, but any action you can take is worthwhile!). Thanks for reading.
I shared a lot of the draft report in Part One of this blog, but there's still more of the report to work through! So here's a few more key points as I see them.
The report outlines ‘how we got here’ resulting from interest and feedback from residents and it outlines several city strategic goals that align with affordable housing.
The report identifies some of the key findings of the city’s Needs Assessment completed earlier this year, including: the fact that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for more residents and poverty and core housing need is increasing in Kitchener. You can see the Needs Assessment report here.
From the report: “This has placed pressure on the rental market as people who would have purchased homes are staying in rental accommodation, because incomes have not increased in pace with increases in housing costs. Redevelopment has eliminated some of the affordable rental housing and replaced it with more condos and more expensive rental housing.”
“Renovictions, where tenants are displaced from their homes to allow major renovations or redevelopment to proceed, are not tracked or monitored for Kitchener. Housing held for investment is not tracked or monitored for Kitchener.” Both of these issues are identified as areas to now monitor and track.
“There is a correlation between the review/approval timeline for development applications and the affordability of housing units.” The city is also doing a Developmental Services review at this time that hopes to streamline these processes.
One example of improving such processes: “In fall 2020, staff will be working on the development of industry explainers/scorecards that explain how to get a passing score at various stages of the development process and will be reviewing file management practices and accountabilities.”
The draft report references the city’s interest (and recent council approval) in allowing inclusionary zoning as one more tool to create more affordable housing options.
More from the report: “Council addressed entering the discussion on resolving homelessness as a partner and not taking on sole responsibility. Council noted transformational change is needed. Instead of relying on shelters, housing should be provided with needed services for people.”
“Spending on homelessness has been reactive, to date. If it was done proactively it would help solve some of the homelessness issues. The City can be an effective advocate working with the Region.” This to me seems like an extremely important point and I look forward to more proactive approaches to increasing access to affordable housing.
The city offered an Engage Kitchener online survey on Affordable Housing. Some takeaways from that survey: collaboration is essential; need more diverse housing options; and need a people-centred approach.
The report outlines how COVID put new and additional pressures on existing models of shelter options for those experiencing homelessness. They highlight House of Friendship’s Shelter Care model and what’s been happening with A Better Tent City on Lot 42. You can read more about both of these models on pages 26-27 of the draft strategy.
From the report: “The Region of Waterloo has indicated they want to work in collaboration with municipal and community partners on a “post-pandemic” plan to re-imagine the shelter system in order to better meet the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness. This will include identifying immediate, mid-term and longer-term housing options and supports.”
Included in the report is this quotation: “This pandemic has shown that governments can solve homelessness” from Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, April 2020.
The report recognizes the role of international law and the right to housing: “Canada committed to the United Nations that we would “recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living… including adequate food, clothing and housing.”
“Housing strategies aimed at addressing homelessness and increasing access to affordable housing in Ontario must be consistent with international human rights obligations, the Code and applicable human rights principles.”
Not In My BackYard arguments are identified as problematic and concerning, resulting in harm and delays. “NIMBY opposition to affordable or supportive housing projects, and the impact of this on tenants, housing providers and society as a whole is not conducive to a just and sustainable society.”
The report again reiterates the need for an Equity and Inclusion lens for housing, and notes that housing can serve as a safety net, fending off many other issues such as economic instability and well-being.
The guiding principles on ‘how we get there’ include: housing as a human right; people-focused (who’s most impacted?); equity, diversity, and inclusion principles; explicitly anti-racist and anti-discriminatory; realistic timelines and achievable goals.
The proposed strategic actions include: meeting needs; what the city can do; working together; being informed and informing; implementation and work plan.
The report ends with an appendix that includes defining terms and a glossary as well as references for the document. And that's the full summary of the report. For additional ways to engage with this information, visit Engage Kitchener. Thanks again for reading!
The draft report from the Affordable Housing Strategy committee was released earlier this month. I have spent some time reading through it and have identified what stood out to me as the key issues and ideas outlined in the report. The report is 42 pages long, so this post runs on the long side (and has a second part!), but I hope it provides a good understanding of the report's contents (without being too overwhelming!).
The report begins with a land acknowledgement and call to action based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and states, “that a more comprehensive approach to reconciliation is required to address systemic inequities, racism and to better support, celebrate and deliver services to Indigenous Peoples in Kitchener.”
The report then identifies why this work is important: “The availability of housing choices that meet people’s needs mean safer, more sustainable and more vibrant communities. It enables public services to be more efficient and effective, and businesses to be more diverse and prosperous. It helps heal social divisions and make cities stronger.”
The report notes various individuals and groups involved in the process, including those with lived experience: “The preparation of the draft Housing Strategy is informed by the voices of those with lived experience, generously shared through in-person, virtual and survey connections.”
Growth expectations are outlined as: “Over a 25-year period, Kitchener is expected to grow by approximately 80,000 people, which is equivalent to about 35,000 new households. The city is changing with taller buildings, increasing urbanization and a trend to smaller household sizes. This growth brings both benefits and challenges.”
The report notes that there are affordability issues throughout the whole housing continuum and the Housing Strategy must address the entire continuum, not just one section of it.
But whose responsibility is affordable housing anyway? From the report: “All levels of government, the private sector and the non-profit sector have roles to play in addressing housing need in a community. Building on the findings of the 2020 Needs Assessment, the Housing Strategy is intended to help Kitchener maximize the use of senior government programs and private sector incentives to increase the supply of affordable housing for residents.” From the report:
The report outlines issues of supply and demand locally.
“Housing needs are not being met and the existing silo approach by levels of government, non-profits, institutions and the private sector is not as effective as needed. Filling the housing gaps cannot be met by market forces and the development industry alone. Significant investment from the federal and provincial governments in funding housing that fills the gaps is needed to meet people’s existing needs.” From the report:
The report sets out goals to increase transitional and supportive housing, community housing, and affordable rentals (less than $1300/month).
Focusing specifically on what Kitchener can do (in complement to upper levels of government), they seek to develop policies on Inclusionary Zoning, Lodging Houses, Parking Waivers, Parkland Dedication Waiver (for Affordable Housing), Community Improvement Plan, and HomeShare model (from Region of Waterloo).
The City is looking into the feasibility of several incentives for affordable housing to be built, including: Fee Waiver Policy for Not-for-Profits; interest-free deferral of development charges; reduction of development charges; and the creation of a Housing Reserve Fund.
The city wants to explore options to better utilize city land, including: identifying which lands may work well for affordable housing, a supportive/community housing pilot, and the feasibility of incorporating affordable housing into other city (re)development projects such as community centres and fire halls.
How best to advocate for affordable housing? The city must: “Jointly advocate for Provincial and Federal funding for housing acquisition, renovation and development of affordable housing and related supports along the housing continuum as part of community building, sustainability and economic recovery”
The strategy also advocates for a variety of funding opportunities in support of organizations such as House of Friendship, Reception House, and MennoHomes, as well as with private sector affordable housing developers.
Partnerships are essential to this work, as noted in the report: "Develop jointly a Region/City Charter to ensure more collaboration and opportunities to identify and address housing challenges in Kitchener. Continue working with the private sector and facilitate partnerships with non-profit partners to provide more affordable housing.
The city notes some of the challenges in collecting Kitchener-specific data and general areas in our local housing market that are proving problematic, including: renovictions, commodification of housing and speculation, and short-term rental markets.
The city says that there is a need for additional work to assess housing needs for: People who are experiencing homelessness; Indigenous Peoples; Seniors; Immigrants; Students; Future population; LGBTQ+; and Women.
Other work outlined in the report includes: tracking and monitoring renovictions, using the city’s social media to better inform and engage residents on housing issues, and establish a lived-experience advisory group to advise staff on housing issues, monitor implementation, and measure success.
That's a pretty comprehensive overview of the report. There are some additional things I'd like to share from the report, but this is already much too long, so that will be available in part 2 of this post! Thanks for reading.
If you've seen me cycling around town at all, chances are it was on this green bike of mine. Even though I have a couple of different bikes, this bike is my favourite and it really just makes me so happy to be out riding it. Some folks have asked me about when and why I got it. I thought I'd share a few of those reasons here.
It actually starts with a sad moment when my grandma passed away in 2017. She lived a full life though, living into her mid-nineties. Shortly after her passing, my mom informed me that grandma had left me a bit of money with which I was to do 'something fun'. I wasn't sure exactly what that would be.
I wanted to use it in a way that would make me think of my grandma. I thought of the fun times I had visiting her on her Manitoba farmhouse and all of the hours we spent in her big garden there. I wondered if I should do something in my garden with her financial contribution. But I have never had a strong green thumb and I wasn't sure that any gardening additions would qualify as 'something fun' for me!
I recalled the many tasty dishes we created in that farmhouse kitchen, often with recently collected fruits and vegetables from the garden. Maybe I should make a kitchen purchase, I wondered. However, much like a gardening addition, I suspected I would not do much justice with such a purchase.
This is part 2 of my posts on the snow clearing pilot project (you can read part 1 here). This one focuses on the appendices of the report.
Appendix A looks at weather patterns from last winter compared to the previous 5 winters. Last year, it looks like we had more days with snowfall between 2 and 8 cm and about the same number with snow events greater than 8 cm. Last year also looked slightly warmer than the average of the previous 5 years.
Appendix B is the proactive bylaw enforcement information pamphlet. Appendices C, D, and E are pilot area maps. Appendix F is the report on the survey.
According to the survey summary, residents are split on whether they support a tax increase to have the city take more responsibility for sidewalk snow clearing.
Appendix G is the focus groups report. Summary below. (Sorry the image is not more clear).
The focus group report outlines participants beliefs about city obligations and also about the value of calling by-law in response to unclear sidewalks. (Hint: most are hesitant to do so).
This quotation by a participant sums up why people are hesitant to call by-law.
The focus group also reached out to individuals not in either pilot. Overall, they preferred the full-service option compared to the snow event option, but had concerns about overall costs and whether the city could complete the work.
Interesting to note that the people who experienced the full service didn’t have either of these concerns.
This really sums up where things are and I think it’s important to note that many of the concerns about the full-service option were based on perceptions that the pilot participants tended to say were not actually an issue.
I have heard a few people say this but as a community, we haven’t come up with something yet that works as well as the full-service pilot.
That's it for the appendices. This goes to Committee on Aug 31st and then to Council on Sept 14th. You can reach out to your councillor prior to then if you'd like to provide any feedback on the pilot. Thanks for reading!
Earlier this week, I shared on Twitter some of the main points from the staff report on snow clearing. Some folks said they found it helpful (because not everyone wants to read a 100+ page staff report apparently!) so I thought I would share those highlights here as well. From my Twitter thread:
It may be scorching hot out but the City of Kitchener is discussing its plans for winter sidewalk maintenance soon. On Aug 31st the issue will be discussed at Committee and then it goes to Council on Sept 14th. You can read the staff report here, which does not recommend city sidewalk snow clearing.
Here’s a few conclusions from the staff report.
A quick overview of staff’s recommendations.
There were essentially 2 snow clearing pilot areas last winter. Here’s a summary of the ‘snow event’ pilot which only cleared snow when more than 8 cm fell. Satisfaction level for this pilot was 40% with 12% willing to pay for that service.
Here’s a chart that shows how the city rated the ‘passability’ of the sidewalks with and without service.
The second pilot area was the ‘full service’ pilot that cleared sidewalks after any snowfall. (Side note: I fell within this pilot area). There was an 80% satisfaction level with this service with 59% of residents in the pilot willing to pay for it.
Here’s a chart that shows how the city rated the ‘passability’ of the sidewalks with and without service.
And here’s a bit more of a breakdown of residents’ preferences before and after the pilot.
There were a couple of other things staff looked at as well including ‘priority routes’, proactive bylaw, assisted services, and a neighbourhood snowblower program. You can find details about those in the report (pages 4-5).
A survey and focus groups were run as well. Those results found that 54% of respondents preferred the status quo (no city-led snow clearing).
Here’s the staff summary of the ‘full service’ pilot.
Staff outline 4 options on pages 20-26 of the report.
City snow clearing of course would increase the city’s emissions, potentially impacting their GHG targets. However, as staff note, those increases may be balanced out by a decrease in community emissions.
While we’re discussing sustainability and environmental considerations, salt usage is another area of potential concern. Staff note the challenges of identifying that balance between city and community usage.
Now, I did find this bit of information about the cost efficiency of roads versus sidewalks interesting. It does appear that sidewalk snow clearing is not as cost efficient as clearing snow from roads for a few reasons as outlined here.
That's the main part of the report. There are several appendices that have some interesting information as well but I'll include that in Part 2 of this post, so watch for that if you're interested.
It’s been a bit of an interesting week and it all started with a tweet! On Aug. 14th, I tweeted the following "I've noted some benefits of the #COVIDlanes for me as a cyclist and as a driver, but I also like them as a pedestrian. I am walking along streets w/ cycling lanes more often as they provide an additional buffer/separation between me & vehicles, resulting in a better experience." The next day I saw that a local city councillor had retweeted that with the comment “You’re losing this one. The silent majority is starting to speak up”. That exchange started quite a bit of discussion. Of course, like all of these types of interactions, the ‘frenzy’ has died down and it’s allowed me some time to reflect on the interaction. Here’s a few of my thoughts from that experience.
A number of people weighed in to the conversation because they found the councillor’s tweet to be inappropriate or offensive in some way. My reaction to that tweet was not one of offense but rather surprise. I felt my original tweet was positive and it was related to a Regional project. So when I saw the negative response to it from a city councillor, I was a bit surprised, wondering why that was the tweet with which the councillor decided to interact. I was also a bit confused by the comment ‘You’re losing this one’. I was unclear about what I was losing at exactly.
However, the Twitter conversation became even more surprising to me as the councillor went on to say that the solution to this issue was that cyclists should be riding on the sidewalk. He then explained how he has been cycling along Westmount for years and simply uses the sidewalk. He suggested that pedestrians didn’t mind moving out of the way, and there were few pedestrians on that stretch anyway. He noted that there were ‘miles and miles of sidewalks not being used’ so encouraging cyclists to use that space, even though it’s against the law, seemed like a good solution to him.
It sounded like his experience riding on the sidewalk has been positive. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most people. Pedestrians often feel unsafe having to share the sidewalk with faster moving bicycles. Crossing intersections becomes problematic as well as drivers aren’t expecting cyclists to cross from the sidewalk, or cyclists must dismount at every street crossing – neither option is ideal. Also, research shows that Black and Brown people face additional criticism and anger when they are seen as ‘breaking the rules’. Asking BIPOC folks to ride their bicycles on the sidewalk may well put them in a vulnerable position.
The fact that the councillor was advocating for cyclists to ride on the sidewalks because it’s safer only seems to bolster the argument in favour of safer cycling infrastructure such as separated bike lanes.
Another topic of discussion that came out of this conversation was the cycling lobby. The councillor congratulated me, as part of the cycling lobby, on being so well organized in our response to his retweet. I have asked for clarification from the councillor on what exactly the cycling lobby is, as I am unclear what he’s referring to. Is it anyone who is in favour of cycling infrastructure or is it something more organized? I’m still unclear at this point. However, my concern about using references to a cycling lobby, is that it minimizes the ideas and concerns of certain residents who are asking for safer streets. I’m a resident who sees adding cycling infrastructure as one way to improve the safety for all road users, and our community at large. It feels frustrating to have those ideas dismissed as being part of a cycling lobby, and not simply as a resident.
Lastly, what I found most discouraging about the retweet was this idea that there are winners and losers in city-building conversations. My hope is that we all want to create a community that works well for all residents. We, of course, will have different ideas on how best to get there, but that’s why we do our research, engage in conversations, and try out possible ideas. I don’t consider that to be a win-lose endeavour. What can feel like a losing situation is when certain perspectives are not intentionally included (or perhaps even actively dismissed) in these conversations. The councillor mentioned that the silent majority is now speaking up. My worry is that if we only listen to the same voices that we usually do, we can never move past the status quo. I think our community can be so much more than just the status quo and that’s the reason I will continue to speak up on issues such as street safety, especially for our most vulnerable road users.
With PRIDE month just around the corner, and in light of the decision by the Waterloo Catholic District School Board to once again not fly the PRIDE flag, I contemplated what I could do to work in solidarity with folks in the LGBTQ+ community. I had already written to the WCDSB (and encourage you to do the same) about my disappointment and frustration in their decision and urged them to reconsider. I thought that I could also place a visible symbol of support at my home. Perhaps a supportive message or rainbow flag on my little library.
That original idea was quickly followed by the thought that if I do that, I may be putting my little library at risk of vandalism or damage of sorts. Which was quickly followed by recognition that if I fear some sort of possible retaliation for simply showing support for PRIDE and inclusivity, how much more must LGBTQ+ individuals and families experience such concerns, not necessarily for just their property, but for themselves.
Although I have made some choices in my life that have received some pushback from family and friends (I think of when, 20 years ago, I told them that I was becoming vegetarian, or that I had decided I didn’t want children of my own), I rarely feel that who I am puts me in harm’s way somehow. As a straight, white woman with a certain level of education and financial means, I know that most of what I do is generally considered ‘normal, or the ‘default’, or ‘acceptable’.
However, this small moment reminded me (and I do hate that I need reminders of this) that there are still people in our community that don’t feel safe or accepted for simply being who they are. Although folks like me sometimes miss it, there is still work to be done to build an equitable and welcoming community for all.
And there are a multitude of ways to push back against these unfair and discriminating systems and policies. For me, I find it helpful to read articles and books, and listen to podcasts, from LGBTQ+ authors and artists. Also, follow them on social media and listen to their experiences. Volunteer or donate to the many organizations working with and in the LGBTQ+ community. Talk with your friends and family about these issues as well and share what you’re learning. Write your local politicians (and school boards!) asking for more inclusive policies.
What am I missing? Feel free to share additional ways to support our community as we work together to create a more welcoming and inclusive city.
On May 11th, Kitchener’s Council met for an online 'Special Council' meeting. You can watch it here if interested. Here’s a few of the highlights and some of my thoughts on that meeting.
The first thing up for discussion was a motion put forth by Councillor Davey which essentially requested federal government funding to assist Canadian municipalities in managing the financial impacts of the pandemic. The motion was seconded by Councillor Singh. This motion is similar to a recently passed motion by the Region of Waterloo and many other municipalities are doing the same. After a few clarifying questions and discussion, this motion passed unanimously.
The next proposed motion, and the reason for my interest in this council meeting, was made by Councillor Ioannidis in relation to Universal Basic Income (UBI). This motion encourages the provincial government to work with the federal government on implementing a Universal Basic Income. This motion resulted in quite a bit of discussion.
First off, Councillor Chapman asked Councillor Ioannidis what his understanding of universal basic income is and how it would reduce the strain on health and social services. Councillor Ioannidis said he’s not an expert on this, but thinks that all options should be on the table and is therefore encouraging upper levels of government to consider UBI.
Councillor Chapman said that she supports this motion in principle but has some concerns and questions of what is actually being proposed. Will it be geared to income so it's not a blanket 'across-the-board' program? She seemed to be concerned about the ‘universality’ of the program, preferring a more targeted approach to ensure those most in need would get these resources. She ended by noting that she may come back with an amendment to this motion.
Councillor Marsh applauded this motion since we see the benefits of government support right now in this pandemic. She also wondered, like Councillor Chapman, if the goal is UBI or a ‘guaranteed minimum income’. She says she’ll support the motion or possibly an amendment.
Councillor Davey sought clarification of whether this motion even falls within municipal jurisdiction at all. The clerk said there are examples of this type of motion happening previously. Councillor Singh also had some concerns about the motion, especially around the idea of everyone receiving it versus only ‘those who most need it’. He wondered if UBI may deplete the government’s ability to focus on those most needing the financial support. Councillor Ioannidis did note that there can be some efficiencies by providing funds to everyone, as we have seen with the implementation of the CERB currently.
Councillor Chapman asked Councillor Ioannidis what he sees happening to the ~33 existing social transfer programs (federal and provincial combined). He responded that the details can be figured out during those discussions at higher levels of government. His motion is to urge those conversations to happen in the first place.
Councillor Chapman put forth an amendment that changed the wording from Universal Basic Income to Guaranteed Minimum Income. Mayor Vrbanovic is not sure there's really much difference between the two. Councillor Ioannidis kept his original motion, so the amendment is now put forth to be voted upon.
Councillor Davey says he can't support this. He feels that we're unclear on details and it's an issue for a completely different level of government. This is not the time to ask, and is kind of embarrassing to consider the request, after just asking for federal funding for cities.
You can see comments from many of the Councillors in this thread. However, the vote on Councillor Chapman’s amendment (with the word change to ‘Guaranteed Minimum Income’) fails with 4 in favour, 7 against (in favour: Davey, Marsh, Chapman, Johnston; Against: Vrbanovic, Gazzola, Michaud, Galloway-Sealock, Singh, Ioannidis, Schnider). That meant the original motion would now be voted on. It passed with an 8-3 vote. In favour: Vrbanovic, Marsh, Schnider, Michaud, Chapman, Galloway-Sealock, Johnston, Ioannidis. Against: Singh, Davey, Gazzola.
I was glad to see this passed as I think a conversation on the best way to support all residents is needed now more than ever, and I hope that any such conversation considers the benefits of a universal basic income. Now the next step is to convince those upper levels of government to actually have those conversations. I’ll share more on how we can encourage exactly that in future posts, so stay tuned.
The Committee also voted on economic recovery supports, and some bylaws, such as street name changes. Again, if that interests you, you can watch the entire meeting here.
I had the good fortune of meeting Sara Casselman, the Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, or SASC for short, a few years ago. She was receiving the Mayor’s City Builder Award for the work she has done in support of sexual assault survivors in our community – a well-deserved honour indeed. Although I had heard a bit about the work SASC was involved in, I started following it much more closely after meeting Sara. I learned about the variety of services and supports they offer such as counselling, a 24-hour support line, and anti-trafficking work. They also provide educational workshops and resources, including the Male Allies program which supports boys and men in ending systemic and everyday forms of gender-based violence. This programming provides alternative narratives of masculinity, opportunity for self-reflection and dialogue, and challenges harmful language and behaviour. "It offers: a chance to talk about what it means to be a man today and address stereotypes, an opportunity to explore how to have a healthy relationship with family, friends and dating partners, and a forum to learn about creating safer schools, workplaces and communities."
As I have become more interested in the important work SASC is doing, I am learning some sobering facts about sexual assault, such as 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. And there’s many challenges that survivors face, including long wait lists for services. SASC’s current waitlist is over 140 individuals. We also know that challenging times, such as this pandemic, only leads to an increase in domestic violence. In fact, a recent StatsCan survey stated that 10% of women were ‘very concerned’ about violence in the home during the pandemic.
I have also noticed the challenges with much of the funding for organizations like the Sexual Assault Support Centre. Government funding is often precarious at best, as any changes in government leadership, economic challenges, and so on can mean that funding support could change at a moment’s notice. We saw that earlier this year as the provincial government announced that certain funding for support centres such as SASC would no longer continue. Clearly, it is definitely a challenge to plan for the long-term health and support of clients when funding sources can change so easily.
The Sexual Assault Support Centre is fortunate that it has many people right in our community that understand the value of their work, and support them financially through one-time donations, monthly donations, and by volunteering. SASC relies on financial support from its fundraising events, such as the annual Rosie the Riveter bowl-a-thon. However, like so many events right now, due to the pandemic, it has been moved to a virtual fundraiser. So, this year, we are being asked to #RallyWithRosie. Put on your best Rosie the Riveter outfit and post your photo to social media with the hashtag #RallyWithRosie. SASC will provide you with tools to educate and engage with your networks to help raise funds to support their work in our community. Visit their website to find out all of the details.
I have only known Sara for a couple of years now, but she continues to amaze me with her passion and support for survivors in our community. She gives so much to this work, including running a half-marathon on April 25th in support of SASC. You can learn more about that here. She knows how important the backing of donors and volunteers is to supporting survivors locally. You too can be a part of that important work this month by Rallying with Rosie.