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Surviving the Pandemic Together: Investing in Our Communities’ Futures

May 23rd, 2020     by Team Shameless     Comments

Illustration by Mallory CK Taylor

Life before COVID-19 was a very different time. In the months leading up to the pandemic, the Shameless team was planning to launch a fundraising campaign to counteract the loss of our Ontario Arts Council funding. Post-COVID, as most of us have been scrambling to secure our own personal finances, support our friends and family, and wonder what the future will look like, those plans have been put on hold.

Our priorities in the current moment have shifted. We’ve found ourselves asking, how can we maintain our treasured communities through primarily online forms? How can we show up for each other when we have to socialize from a distance? How can we continue to create the world that we want to find on the other side of all of this?

We are in awe of the organizations that have set up mutual aid or emergency support funds, the networks banding together to provide what has become even more scarce, and the folks who do this kind of community work all the time. Our neighbours in the U.S. are asking those who can to #PassTheCheck, meaning donate part of their stimulus check to those in need. In the same spirit, instead of asking you to donate to Shameless at this time, we want to highlight all of the organizing work being done to help our friends, neighbours, and communities that could use your support.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food banks are seeing increased need among their clients, but fewer volunteers and depleting resources. Feed Ontario, an organization dedicated to feeding healthy meals to those in need, is helping to create pre-packed emergency food boxes so food banks can continue to serve their clients while minimizing exposure to the virus. FoodShare Toronto, an organization dedicated to food justice that centres Black and Indigenous folks, people of colour, and people with disabilities in their work, has ramped up their Good Food Box deliveries to Toronto’s most vulnerable and communities and individuals.

While we are being encouraged to stay safe by staying home, survivors of domestic violence know that home is not always safe. In fact, the stay home order has increased domestic violence across the country and around the world. Domestic violence shelters in New Brunswick say they are in financial crisis, while rape crisis centres in Ontario, like us at Shameless, are dealing with funding cuts ordered by the PC government. There are tons of organizations working to support survivors and end violence, including the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, the Red Door Shelter, and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.

Workers of all kinds are feeling squeezed right now, but some industries have become even more precarious. Glad Day Book Shop is the world’s oldest queer book shop. In recent years, it has become a cultural hub, hosting everything from dance parties to movies nights to Naked Heart, the LGBTQ Festival of Words. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Glad Day started a fund to help queer artists and cultural workers, plus the tip-based workers who run the space, make ends meet. With the money they have raised, Glad Day has been able to assist 400 people so far.

Maggie’s: The Toronto Sex Workers Action Project is a Toronto-based organization run by and for sex workers. Their mission is to assist sex workers in their efforts to live and work with safety and dignity. Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network was formed by sex workers, social workers, and legal and health professionals to support and advocate for the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers. These two organizations have started an emergency support fund for sex workers, who are often barred from accessing basic labour rights and protections.

The People’s Healing Fund also started an emergency fund to support working-class IBPOC healing practitioners (including body workers, sex workers, and more) who are out of work due to COVID-19 or whose living expenses have increased.

The Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter works to eradicate all forms of state-sanctioned oppression, violence, and brutality against Black folks in Toronto. They started a mutual aid fund to support Black folks across the Greater Toronto Area through the COVID-19 health crisis.

The pandemic has interrupted more than our daily lives. Protests to stop the colonial and environmentally-devastating Coastal GasLink Pipeline project were going strong across Canada in early 2020. The current pandemic has halted the protests and shifted our national focus, but construction is still ongoing. The Unist’ot’en Camp has been at the centre of the fight to protect the unceded and sacred land of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation against construction of the pipeline. The Unist’ot’ten people are facing mounting legal fees to protect their territory, and donating to the legal fund is one way we can continue to support them during the pandemic.

Our own financial futures may feel uncertain, so we might be scared to donate any money at all, but donations don’t have to be huge amounts. Could you spare the amount you might normally spend on bus fare to visit your friend? What about the amount you might normally tip your server? Or the amount you might normally spend on a ticket to see your favourite artist? Could you share an organization’s website, or a friend’s GoFundMe page? There are so many ways — large and small — that you can help.

Maybe you’re feeling inspired to donate but, with so many organizations and important causes in need of our support, can’t decide where is best to send your money. Artist Marlee Grace suggests asking yourself these questions: What do I have access to? What identities of privilege do I hold? Who do I want to lift up? Where am I from? Whose land am I on? What resources didn’t I have growing up? Who has supported me?

We might add another question to this list: what kind of world do we want to find waiting for us on the other side?

Tags: community, covid 19, mutual aid

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