Faith & the Common Good is encouraging faith groups to explore how to serve their communities by helping vulnerable members prepare for and cope with climate induced extreme weather impacts (ex. extreme heat, ice storms, flooding).
Why is this work important?
Extreme weather events are no longer once-in-100-year occurrences. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that claim payouts from severe weather have doubled every five to ten years since the 1980s.
Municipalities and traditional emergency response actors are struggling to meet the overwhelming needs of simply maintaining critical infrastructure in the face of these unprecedented stresses. Too frequently, our most vulnerable community members are left without sufficient support.
Faith groups can add great value to local emergency response structures. They are typically the first ones in and last ones to leave. They possess a shared sacred calling around community service and care for the Earth. They offer local community connections, volunteer mobilization, and locally relevant resources that can enhance response and recovery effectiveness.
Working together to leverage these shared assets on behalf of our most vulnerable should be an important part of our local climate response plans.
Resilient Communities = Connected Communities
With support from Live Green Toronto , Olive Tree Foundation, Evergreen CityWorks, Wellbeing Toronto, City of Toronto’s Environment & Energy Division, City of Toronto's Office of Emergency Management and the University of Toronto’s Geography & Planning department, we conducted a 2015 proof of concept project to understand how Toronto’s diverse faith communities could be better utilized as local service centers during extreme weather emergencies. The project featured a year-long, in-depth assessment of diverse faith pilot sites across the city as well as public workshops, training, cross sector collaboration, and resource development.
What did we learn?
Neighbourhoods are most resilient when residents know each other, have multiple active networks, care for their vulnerable neighbours and have committed and tangible external supports.
That is why our on-going extreme weather resilience work is focused on building a "social infrastructure" for climate response. Faith communities have important roles to play in helping to curate community "resilience hubs" where residents feel welcome, animated, and willing to stay and contribute.
Check out our 2015 Toronto-area case studies to see the wide variety of local partnerships that diverse places of faith established to increase the climate resilience of their neighborhoods. The following video also provides a glimpse of one of the early community engagement workshops that was held as part of our 2015 Toronto pilot to help connect communities.
How do I learn more?
Join us as a learning partner in our latest endeavor — The Lighthouse Project, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Lighthouse Project is working in Brampton, Toronto, Burlington, and Hamilton to understand effective community engagement strategies used to promote the type of multi-stakeholder, multi-generational, and multi-cultural networks that will contribute to extreme weather preparedness: before, during, and after an extreme weather event.
In each city, the project will:
• Work with existing local networks of community partners, interfaith stakeholders and municipal advisors to choose suitable hub sites, or to establish a resilience network.
• Recruit diverse local stakeholders to participate by hosting fun and informative Resilientville role play simulations, or Resilientville asset mapping workshops (developed by San Francisco’s Neighborhood Empowerment Network).
• Form working groups at each hub site where local stakeholders will design and develop action plan recommendations that especially consider their most vulnerable members.
How can my faith community get started?
If your faith community is in Brampton, Toronto, Burlington, or Hamilton, we encourage you to join our Lighthouse Project as a learning partner to understand more about how to engage with your community to become an extreme weather resilience anchor.
If not, Faith & the Common Good’s Extreme Weather Tool Kit will help your faith group think through the essential components of an extreme weather response plan.
It provides some great resources to help you engage with municipal and community partners, including sample letters and power point presentation slides.
While the toolkit is tailored for faith groups in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who want to support their most vulnerable community members better withstand extreme weather emergencies, it can easily be adapted to your location and or community organization.
How much will it cost?
The cost of acting as a local extreme weather resilience site was one of the principal concerns for participating faith communities in our 2015 Toronto area pilot. Can we afford to serve vulnerable residents during extreme weather emergencies? What kind of capital and operating costs does this work entail?
University of Toronto’s Geography & Planning graduate students, with financial support from the City of Toronto’s Environment & Energy Division, helped us look at this question as part of our pilot study.
We have made these cost estimates available to provide a very rough budget guide to the faith groups who are seeking outside funding and program partners to support this work.
The cost estimates are categorized by the level of service participating faith sites sought to offer — from a temporary hot drink, phone-charging station to providing overnight accommodations.
Join our shared learning network!
Faith & the Common Good and its collaborative partners across the country are building a community of practice to enhance community resilience to extreme weather.
Want to join our conversations? Send an email to [email protected] to be included on our on-going training and shared learning.