Vital Signs is a community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada, measuring the vitality of communities in key areas, providing critical data to help set priorities and identify opportunities for action.
The London Community Foundation (LCF) will be publishing its report on Tuesday, Oct. 4, but offered up a sneak peek of its report during this month’s Social Innovation Exchange, May 18, at Goodwill Industries.
The exchange is a partnership between LCF, Pillar Nonprofit Network and Ontario Trillium Foundation. This month’s conversation saw more than 75 people take part, representing not only LCF, but also community builders, cross sector social innovators, local non-profit groups and engaged citizens.
The sneak peek revealed mental health issues in the community as the focus of the 2016 Vital Signs report.
Among those invited to speak at the exchange was Brad Duncan, the former chief of police and a member of the Vital Signs Advisory Committee.
Duncan said the data collected in the report will look at the gaps in the community when it comes to mental health services while helping drive a conversation on how to fill those gaps.
“We aren’t going in with a preconceived notion about what the issues are. Today is just about giving our community partners a look at what we want to do and invite them to participate,” he said. “We need the data. Each group gathers their own statics. By sharing, we might be able to see the issues we’re all dealing with.”
Joining Duncan on stage for the innovation exchange were Barhet Woldemariam and Jennifer Vale, co-ordinators for Homes 4 Women London.
Woldemariam said the two women were invited to speak at the sneak peek specifically to the share the impact the project is having on the lives of women and on the community.
Within mental health agencies, she said, the group is looking at closing the gap on mental health, addictions and homelessness to address some of these issues and support women who are most vulnerable in the community.
An effort like Homes 4 Women is just one example, Duncan said, of how when it comes to mental health, Londoners couldn’t be living in a “more care-centred” community.
“We know the Mayor’s Poverty Panel, we know the Poverty Research Centre, they’ve all talked and pointed to mental health and addictions as part of this continuum,” he said. “What we’re saying is now is the time to bring us all together. Now is the time to make a step forward . . . this is really a stepping-stone as far as I’m concerned.”
Martha Powell wholeheartedly agreed.
Powell, LCF president and CEO, said it was decided the Vital Signs report would be crafted “through the lens of mental health” as the data it contains is going to drive the story of the report.
As such, it’s “a pretty important topic” to the community.
“Mental health is a theme that runs throughout all the issues that we talk about — poverty, housing, education, employment,” Powell said. “It finds its way throughout and it is the cause and root of so many of the issues. I don’t know what the data will tell us, I hope there’s good news; there probably will be some not great news as well.”