Windsor-Essex Pride Fest hosted its first Essex County-based Community Engagement Session, at the Essex United Church on Tuesday, January 23. The session was held to engage members of the LGBT community and their allies on their thoughts and ideas on what types of social and outreach programs they would like to see developed for the LGBT community across Essex County.
“The whole focus of this program was to reduce social isolation between the LGBT community,” David Lenz said, who is the President of the Windsor-Essex Pride Fest.
“We’ve got a lot of people who come to the (Pride) Festival, not a lot are from the rural areas, and some people don’t come to the festival, some people don’t go out to bars.
We’re trying to create activities where people can come out and just interact with each other.”
Many individuals in the LGBT community struggle with feelings of isolation and a lack of peer and support groups. This can be even more challenging for those living in more rural communities with less or no support systems in place.
“The LGBTIQ2S community experiences a unique social isolation compared with other marginalized groups,” Lenz said. The lack of peer or social support, activities, gatherings, or other connective resources in the community cause a form of social isolation that often escalates into a number of other problems, including homelessness, depression, violence, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, and dropping out of school for some LGBTIQ2S youth.”
Approved for funding earlier this year through a $450,000 Ontario Trillium Grant, these Community Engagement Sessions, in conjunction with the greater Windsor-Pride Fest’s Q Connect Project, hope to negate some of these challenges faced by members of the LGBT community by providing additional socially engaging, and accommodating environments to all individuals who become involved with the initiative.
“Every community is going to be different in what types of things they want, and what they need. So, tonight’s the night for Essex,” Lenz said about the variety of feedback and suggestions for potential community activities. “In Windsor, we have paint nights, we have game nights, where people come in and do board games, we have sewing classes planned for Windsor. We’re trying to bring some of those things out to the county to see if people are interested in those types of things, or looking for something different.”
Feedback to the previous consultations in Windsor has been incredibly positive, with many praising the accessibility of the events for individuals of all socio-economic backgrounds.
“It’s been great, a lot of people are looking forward to these kinds of things,” Lenz said of the events organized through the prior Windsor engagement sessions. “People don’t want to go out to bars, and these events are free, so it’s another opportunity for those who can’t afford events where we charge. These are things that greatly benefit them.”