Lori Kleinsmith is a YWCA Niagara Region Board Member and Chair of the Advocacy Committee. As the month of July centers around leadership and community advocacy, we asked Lori for some insight on why being an advocate for social issues is important. Not only does her active role in the YW community make her a leader in our eyes, but Lori’s passion for health, human rights, poverty reduction, and social services inspires us!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lori.
Advocacy can be speaking up for yourself on a personal issue or speaking out on a public policy issue that needs to be changed.
Advocacy is about achieving justice and equity by challenging oppressive systems, policies, and laws that negatively affect a particular group or population. Advocacy work can be complex, time consuming and tedious. It can often feel like little, if any, progress is being made. However, if we avoid doing advocacy work and stay silent, decision makers can say there is no problem or issue and the problem remains unaddressed.
One area in significant need of advocacy support in Niagara is housing and homelessness. The region of Niagara is inequitably funded for homelessness services, receiving less than half of what municipalities and regions of similar population size receive. This chronic underfunding has left local agencies scrambling for resource dollars, creating another obstacle for vulnerable people as critical programs and services are reduced or eliminated. Niagara Region staff have outlined the issue in a their Ten Year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan. The report contains a wealth of data and information outlining housing service needs in Niagara.
Not-for-profit charities have often been among the strongest of voices on advocacy issues, ranging from poverty issues to the environment. Unfortunately, the government has placed a chill on charities participating in advocacy work as arduous audits of their political activity are taking place. As charities shy away from advocacy work, now more than ever before, we need new advocates from all walks of life to step forward and take on this important work. This could be as simple as writing a letter to the editor highlighting an issue of concern such as housing and homelessness. Other ways of getting involved in advocacy include signing a petition (or starting your own!), contacting your local politicians to raise awareness on an issue, or joining a coalition of like-minded people to work collectively on issues, such as the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network or No Fixed Address.
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
― William Faulkner
Images courtesy of Google Images and YWCA Niagara Region.