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Connecting Care: Building a Network

“The protocol is not very complicated; it's just a matter of making sure the doors are wide open for people to come into our air-conditioned environment, and making sure water is available at all times.” — Matthew Pearce, the CEO of Old Brewery Mission

The Lighthouse Project in Hamilton has been building a network of residents and community stakeholders in the interest of preparing neighbours for the impacts of increasing extreme weather events. This network is newly named as Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW) Hamilton.

A year-long pilot now approaching its end, the network is centred around the Beasley neighbourhood. Beasley has a high population of vulnerable people such as seniors, new immigrants, and transient populations who are most likely to be impacted by weather related events. Many of these groups typically have weak social connectedness — and yet research on community resilience points to the critical importance of solid relationships for bounce-back to occur. Much of community resilience is about the strength of social capital and these pre-existing relationships.

We have established a strong Beasley Working Group that propels The Lighthouse Pilot forward as well as a diverse and knowledgeable Partnership Table to advise and assist the Working Group as it helps the network to identify its goals.

The CREW Hamilton network invites local groups and organizations who are already working with vulnerable populations in various capacities to join the network. Some of these groups are already what the network would consider an “extreme weather resilience hub”: that is, a physical space, familiar in the neighbourhood as a friendly, welcoming place.

As a pilot project of Faith & the Common Good, we are especially interested in the participation of the faith community as potential resilience hubs. St John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on Wilson Street engaged with the pilot from the very start and we have held meetings and events at this location on a regular basis. While the project has been evolving in Beasley, faith groups in neighbourhoods across the city, such as Dundas, Strathcona, Jamesville, and Crownpoint have joined the network.

Central to the project is identifying what the CREW Network can offer the neighbourhood and the community. We have developed an online survey that explores this question.. For instance, network offers could include extreme weather training and education; monthly speakers; an annual forum; localized weather alerts from Hamilton Public Health; fundraising opportunities for member organizations; volunteer sharing or a central location that coordinates resource distribution such as food, water, basic medical supplies, sunscreen, and hats, etc., before, during, or after an event.

Our Environment Hamilton Lighthouse team has brought interested residents and community stakeholders face to face in order to identify overlapping and intersecting services and opportunities for collaborations, with the goal of developing priority actions.

One of the ways we have done this is by meeting with groups and organization leaders who we think might be interested in our project. As we develop the network and speak to potential members, we explore what sorts of support each organization might need in order to be most effective as they adapt to extreme weather. Most important is understanding how to maintain momentum beyond the pilot’s official end in December 2018.

We have also been engaging the Beasley neighbourhood through workshops at St. John’s where residents and other stakeholders map neighbourhood assets such as amenities and services. We have had the ongoing support of Public Health staff in helping us to create an online story map intended to encourage weather emergency preparedness. It will display Beasley’s “resiliency data” as well as mapping both the local Beasley network members and the broader CREW Hamilton network.

To this end, we’ve met with key community leaders and gained important insight from the incredible richness of work already being performed in Hamilton. Many of these places already function as resilience hubs. We would like to support them as they adapt themselves and their visiting community members to increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather.

Some incredible examples include 541 Barton Eatery and Cafe, where customers pay-it-forward, by turning dollars into buttons that can be used by anyone in need of a good meal, and HARRRP community centre, which provides free programs and services to help residents deal with the impact of poverty and other challenges. Closer to the Beasley neighbourhood is the Urban Core Community Health Centre and Christ Church Cathedral, also highly used resources for the community. We are meeting new contacts by reaching out to groups who we know support vulnerable people, such as Helping Hands Street Mission. A youth worker from the Wesley Urban Ministries is sharing his skills with us as to how to approach engagement with people who are experiencing homelessness.

In all this, we are learning that in building a resilience network, as in building a resilient community, we have to develop trusting relationships. Without these, we won’t get very far.

Check this out:
Defining Resilience Hubs:

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  • John son
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  • Alex Groove
    Very good blog post on building a network

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