A couple of years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with the vulnerable sector here in Kitchener/Waterloo. Specifically, I volunteered with homeless youth under age 25. During this time I was able to get to know many of the youth and listen to their stories. My very first shift I went home an emotional wreck after having a conversation with a young girl not much older than my own daughter.
It wasn’t long before I became acutely aware of the higher incidence of drug use, mental health problems and criminal activity among this population.
People who are homeless are far more likely to be victims of crime than are people who are housed. One Toronto study determined that 46% of homeless women and 39% of homeless men surveyed had been physically assaulted within the previous year. Homeless youth fared worst of all, with 69% reporting having been attacked. Another study found that sexual assaults against women who are homeless are both more frequent and more violent than those against women who are housed1.
Community members experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region, as in many other communities, are often looked upon with fear – they experience stigma and exclusion on a daily basis in addition to the other challenges of being without a home - including extreme poverty, hunger, mental illness, addiction, and trauma. A significant part of this stigma has to do with the perception of crime and risk associated with homelessness.
In the past two years there has been a sharp increase in both the number of people using emergency shelters and the number of shelter bed nights, which means more people are using shelters and they are staying longer. When I look at this homelessness statistics presented by WRCPC's Snapshot on Crime, I experience a range of reactions.
Individuals facing homelessness are more likely to become victims of crime and/or engage in criminal activity than individuals with stable housing. If charged with a criminal offence homeless individuals are typically charged with minor property crimes and drug offences. It is fair to say that their vulnerability for victimization is of most concern in this context.
The 2013 Ontario Budget was passed in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday June 11, 2013. The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council always looks to the budget through the 'smart on crime' lens of crime prevention. The 2013 budget presents some interesting spending and 'non-spending' as it relates to crime prevention. We look for information with an eye for the root causes of crime which are economic factors, social environment and family structures. The economic factors we look for include poverty, employment & educational opportunities, and housing.
This is the official position statement of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council given at a public consultation on the question of a casino in the City of Kitchener. The remarks below were given by WRCPC Executive Director, Christiane Sadeler on behalf of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council.
I’ve been asked this question. Not these “exact’ words, but it certainly felt that way when I was asked to ‘provide a rationale’ as to why we use yoga as part of our programs at inREACH, a street gang prevention program in Waterloo Region. Here’s the rationale I gave… which also seems to be backed up by a lot of good solid evidence.
When you have the opportunity to learn from someone who has 'been there'... take it! This week, we had the honour of welcoming and hosting Jamie Courtorielle in Waterloo Region. Jamie is cycling across Canada in order to raise awareness about addictions and the destruction it is causing in our families, communities, and most of all, our youth.
And while we're at it, let's also talk about prevention, addictions and compassion.