Your Local Neighbourhood Queer Community Centre: The Well
“Starting from day one, when The Well came together following a vicious hate crime in Hamilton, ” affirms Jae Adams, Coordinator of Programming, “this organization has always been centred on the principle that everyone in our community can be a great contributor if given the chance.”
Diverse communities have diverse needs, and when those diverse communities intersect with other diverse communities, then the needs become even greater and more complex to deal with. The impression of Hamilton across the country is still that of Steeltown, a rough, blue-colour community. But what about those people who sport a rainbow colour?
While all residents of the city deal with the growing chasm between the rich and working class that pervades health care, housing, employment and many other social situations, queer people in Hamilton also struggle when these factors intersect with their sexuality, sometimes creating another barrier. Adams relates that “it's against that backdrop that queer people, like all other Hamiltonians, have boundless hopes and dreams that are dragged back by the weight of an aging, mixed urban/rural city that is struggling to define itself for the 21st century. It is difficult to discuss the *general *climate for queer people without reflecting that for some, the situation is dire for reasons entirely beyond their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Well was founded after the 2004 attack on a local businessman. Money poured in to help his recovery, but after a plastic surgeon donated his services, the man decided the money raised should go to establish a safe place for LGBTQ people. Through generous donations from business, organizations, labour groups and individuals, as well as Trillium Foundation grants, The Well has grown to offer many fantastic programs. Offering social and support groups, including for youth, trans and questioning people, Adams notes that there is still great need for more. “There is definitely a need for improved counselling services to members of the LGBTQ community who are struggling, either with their LGBTQ identity, or for other reasons. We are overwhelmed by requests to provide this kind of support, and we regrettably have extensive waiting lists for a number of important counselling needs.”
Spreading the word about their programs is a difficulty many community centres face. The Well uses traditional means such as flyering and postering to reach people who do not have Internet access, and they can also be found on Twitter and Facebook and visit local schools and youth events.
One of their recent initiatives was flying their ‘Are Your Queer?’ banner and web campaign. “The primary vehicle for this outreach was a banner that flew out front of City Hall over Main Street during the week of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The banner was accompanied by a website, www.areyouqueer.ca, which explored people's views towards sexual orientation and gender identity, through the lens of examining the impact and meaning of the word 'queer' to the visitors to the site. We received over 2,500 unique visits to the site, and it garnered a lot of media attention and discussion.”
While The Well is a relatively young centre, it has come a long way in such a short time. Jae is quick to praise those who have ensured the queer people of Hamilton have a community space. “There's no doubt that The Well relies on a core of dozens of extremely dedicated volunteers who provide virtually all of our programs and services. We also benefit from the diverse participants who take part in our programs, attend our events and contribute to the momentum.”
Interested in helping The Well? Jae offer suggestions about what you can do (locally and from afar):
Become a participant
- our events and programs are made more engaging and enjoyable when more people participate, particularly when the diversity of our participants reflects the diversity of our community.
Become a volunteer
- we have ways for people of all ages, abilities and skill levels to participate as volunteers. It's a lot of fun, and a great way to meet new people.
Become a donor
- as a registered charity with no ongoing government funding, The Well is struggling to find a way to maintain our existing service levels (nevermind the expansion that we would love to do). We are very keen (okay, maybe even desperate!) to increase our donor base. No amount is too small, so we ask everyone to please consider giving through one-time donations of any amount, or through payroll deduction programs. Folks can donate through our website, using a credit card, or by visiting us at our office or at one of our events.
Spread the word
- help us reach out to those who we haven't been able to reach. Like us on Facebook, sign up to receive our newsletter and talk about our programs and services to your friends, family and colleagues.