Hamilton council takes its time to recommend funding YWCA Hamilton


Published March 1, 2023 at 5:58 pm

Following a couple hours of debate and multiple votes, the elected leadership of Hamilton recommended to themselves to fund YWCA Hamilton.

The YWCA’s funding ask is for $2.6 million. That accounts for just under one-quarter of 1 per cent of the City of Hamilton’s tax-supported operating budget, which is to be finalized this month. The city is looking at a potential 6.7-per-cent property tax increase.

Councillors and Mayor Andrea Horwath voted 12-3 at a general issues committee meeting to recommend the funding for the YWCA, whose programs include transitional housing support for women and gender-diverse individuals who are survivors of intimate partner violence and other forms of abuse. That would face a ratification vote at a regular council meeting on March 29, and councillors could change their vote.

Healthy and Safe Communities general manager Angela Burden told councillors “we have shortchanged women in this community for many years,” but noted that a housing roadmap is due to be presented at a committee meeting on March 23. Housing Services director Michelle Baird also noted the local YWCA “operates on a shoestring; they certainly need support with operating dollars.” But questions about whether the process was fair to other service agencies in Hamilton, also stretched out the debate.

“I am going to get on the soapbox, proudly, because that organization has come cap-in-hand over and over to this council,” Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann said. “Sometimes as new governors, we have an opportunity to right wrongs and this is one of them, and it’s not that much.

“The next item we are talking about today is about $1.3 million for enforcing encampments,” Nann added. “But the $2.6 million this initiative keeps many, many women out of encampments that we would then not need to enforce.

“This is a ‘yes, and?’ situation, let’s do something today to right this wrong, and work toward a roadmap.”

Mayor Horwath added at one point she was “flummoxed” by the debate process. Ultimately, the mayor and (in order of ward) Couns. Maureen Wilson (1), Cameron Kroetsch (2), Nann (3), Tammy Hwang (4), Tom Jackson (6), Jeff Beattie (10), Mark Tadeson (11), Craig Cassar (12), Alex Wilson (13), Mike Spadafora (14), and Ted McMeekin (15) were supportive of the recommendation.

Couns. Matt Francis (5), John-Paul Danko (8), and Brad Clark (9) voted against the motion, while Coun. Esther Pauls (7) was not present. They had supported an earlier, similar motion that would have held off on a vote until after presentation of the housing roadmap. Those motions were defeated by 9-6 and 8-7 margins, respectively.

“This is a major, major funding ask that came out of the blue and is just getting a rubber stamp at the expense of all our partners,” Danko said, noting it is not sustainable the municipalities are handling many social services with token help from other levels of government (Ontario and the feds).

Maureen Wilson seemed to find some irony in concerns about equity coming into play with a debate around supporting women who have been disadvantaged and marginalized.

“It is of interest that we support this — it puts women in a situation where we can support each other and women thrive when we can do it collectively,” Wilson said. “As a feminist of a certain age, I am pleased as punch to hear about the importance of equity and fairness around this table, and I will wear that as a mantra.”

Spadafora, prior to voting to support the YWCA ,summed up trying to find a balance as an elected official,.

“I’ve heard how underfunded this sector has been — I was just at a meeting with representatives of Interval House Hamilton (women’s and gender-diverse people shelter), who are also one of our community partners,” Spadafora said. “I’ve heard of women literally running for the door at Interval House… it’s heartbreaking to hear the stories of the abuse that people have suffered. That’s why I’m very torn.”

The range of supports that YWCA Hamilton offers in the area of transitional housing support are available on its website.

Councillors to get budget bump

Late in the meeting, the GIC also voted 11-4 to approval Kroetsch’s motion for $600,000 to increase office budgets for the 15 councillors. The $40,000 apiece could cover renting meeting space, or increasing a part-time staff member to full-time equivalent.

Mayor Horwath, Wilson, Kroetsch, Nann, Hwang, Danko, Beattie, Cassar, Alex Wilson, Spadafora, and McMeekin voted in favour. Francis, Jackson, Clark and Tadeson voted against.

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