Over 80 local municipal candidates are headed to a workshop hosted by The Feminist Shift, a collaboration between YW Kitchener-Waterloo and YWCA Cambridge.
The event on September 28, is an attempt by local women's advocacy groups to get women’s homelessness on the agenda of every municipal and regional candidate ahead of the October election.
“We see a real opportunity with the leadership coming forward in this election to tackle some of the critical issues highlighted by the Project Willow report on women’s homelessness and gender-based violence,” said Rosalind Gunn, director of communications and advocacy with
The Project Willow report was released earlier this summer and detailed the experiences that women dealing with homelessness go through on a daily basis.
The report claims that in one year, a homeless woman experiences the amount of violence that most other women experience over the course of a lifetime.
With homelessness issues taking front and centre stage over the past few years, the narrative still feels like it’s excluding a major population of those being affected, said Jennifer Gordon, advocacy director for YW-KW.
“The narrative continues to come from a man's experience of homelessness. This learning session is an opportunity for candidates to gain exposure to the narrative of homelessness from a gendered experience, which includes a close connection to gender-based violence,” said Gordon.
Having candidates start their learning in the area of women's homelessness pre-election will give the community the chance to benefit from stronger decision making, added Gordon.
Mayor Kathryn McGarry who is running for re-election, plans on attending the event. She said in an emailed reply to CambridgeToday, "One act of violence against one woman is one act too many."
Having served on a select committee as Cambridge's MPP, she helped with recommendations that informed the framework of legislation that was passed in dealing with this crisis; making her no stranger to the issue.
"All candidates should be involved in working towards changing our service system manager approaches to protect our vulnerable women," McGarry said, "Gender based violence has increased over the pandemic. Those women who are un-housed experience much greater incidence of violence, some on a daily basis.
Ward 7 candidate and incumbent Scott Hamilton who hopes to attend said, we need to take more steps in guaranteeing the safety of women throughout the community.
"It's crucial that elected officials do whatever they can to end stigmas surrounding homelessness and violence against women. They need to educate themselves and the public about the root causes of homelessness and how it can be prevented," added Hamilton.
Municipal hopefuls from all over the region will be taking part in the session to work on these areas and hear first hand experiences of what women are going through right here in Cambridge and the rest of KW. They will also hear from local advocates about the change they would like to see and get the conversation around these issues started.
“It’s been great seeing candidates step up on this issue and make this commitment to learning before they walk into leadership roles in our municipal and regional governments and start making decisions that directly impact the lives of the women reflected in our report”, Gordon sai.
The numbers of attendees only represent around a third of the local candidates running in the October elections, and YWCA Cambridge and YW-KW hope to see these numbers rise. Those who cannot attend the event on Wednesday will have an opportunity to connect at a later time.