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.
This blog is the second guest post about Male Allies Against Sexual Violence (MAASV) in Waterloo Region. You can read the first post from Joan Tuchlinsky here.
Being a leader doesn't necessarily mean being at the front of a rally with a megaphone. There are many components to leadership. It's important, especially for the guys reading this, to remember that we are all leaders, whether to our brothers and sisters, our partners, our friends, or to our sons and daughters.
It's Crime Prevention Week in Ontario. Every November, community agencies, organizations, police departments, municipalities and citizens come together to raise awareness of crime prevention as a builidng block for creating vibrant, dynamic, safe and healthy communities. "Engaged communities are safer communities" is this year's theme! We couldn't agree more!
By now you've likely heard, read or seen the tragic story of Amanda Todd who committed suicide a few weeks after posting a video of her using flash cards to describe the torment she faced as a result of being initially cyber-bullied which then overflowed to actual violence. She made the mistake, as many young people do, of sending a picture of herself (sexting) which was then used to basically blackmail her into other unwanted activities. She trusted the wrong people who used her innocence against her.
I wish this were a fairy tale but sadly, it's all too true. Every so often my white bread world is, to quote a British friend, "gobsmacked" (shaken, astonished, shocked) and this was the case recently when I attended a workshop on the issue of human trafficking in Canada. The event was sponsored by the Downtown East Project and hosted by the Steps to Change Diversion Program.
For those interested in crime prevention the last couple weeks have certainly given many reasons for reflection. The recent shootings in Toronto at a neighbourhood party resulting in 2 deaths, the shootings at the Eaton Centre and those that are reported regularly in the press certainly make one think that violence and crime rates are on the rise.