I would like to start this article off by saying thanks to you, the readers, for embracing LGBTQ+ in the City. I have received some amazing feedback since the first installment and some incredible opportunities have opened for me to be able to do even more impactful work within the community – all because of this column. I would also like to send out a huge thank you to Kate Alexander (OUTniagara), Enzo DeDivitiis (Pride Niagara), Stephanie Vail (Quest), and Melanie Gratton, who have been a tremendous help to me with this month’s edition of LGBTQ+ in the City. For December, because it’s the month of Christmas, a time of family, friends, love and that giving spirit, I really wanted to take this opportunity to focus on what is available to the LGBTQ+ community during the holidays and all year long in terms of social groups and support. Not all of us have a loving and supportive family, a special someone, a great group of friends that we can share this time of year with.
For those of us who don’t, you are not alone.The holidays can be the toughest time of the year for many of us. I’ve been there, and it can be hard and lonely, so we need to take extra care of ourselves.
Not all of us have a place to call home or food on the table – and not just over the holidays. Homelessness is a very real reality in Niagara. In fact, according to Niagara’s more recent Homelessness Point-in-Time Count Report, on one given night (March 27, 2018), 625 people were experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity (up from 465 in 2016). 37 per cent reported a family breakdown as the reason for their housing loss and at least 10 per cent identified as being non-heterosexual. Considering LGBTQ+ folks represent around one per cent of the population, this is a significant over-representation.
Throughout the month of November I did a fair amount of research and I was able to work with some amazing people in the community to find out what kind of support and emergency resouces are available in Niagara to those who may need them. I will be honest, based on the numerous conversations I’ve had, and from my own experience, we need more in Niagara to help our growing LGBTQ+ community, but what we have is a great start. So, without further ado, I present to you a list of available support services across Niagara from social groups to shelters as well as some self-care tips that we could all use to help us get through the holidays and beyond.
I hope this information is helpful and I urge you to share it with folks, especially to those you know who may need it.
Connecting with the Community:
If you’re looking for some social groups to connect with or you’re new to town, contact OUTniagara who can direct you to the numerous social groups and community events taking place in the Region. There are several groups providing support and organizing activities through the year such as Pride Niagara, PFLAG Niagara Chapter, The Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group, LGBTQ Social Group Niagara, Quest Community Health Center, Niagara Falls Community Health Centre (both CHCs have an LGBTQ youth group), Transgender Niagara, Niagara Regional Gay Men’s Group and Senior Pride Network of Niagara (not an exhaustive list). All information can be found on the OUTniagara website: outniagara.org.
Mental Health Support:
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366. Trans Lifeline is a grassroots hotline and micro-grants organization offering direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis – for the trans community, by the trans community.
YouthLine.ca: 1-800-268-9688; Text: 647-694-4275; chat online at youthline.ca. Youth Line offers confidential and non-judgemental peer support through their telephone, text and chat services. Get in touch with a peer support volunteer from Sunday to Friday, 4-9pm.
COAST Niagara: 1-866-550-5205. COAST provides services to people in the Niagara Region who are in crisis and have a mental health concern.
Safe Beds Program (Canadian Mental Health Association): An alternative to hospitalization in a crisis situation that provides a number of beds and crisis counseling on a short-term basis. 1-866-550-5205 ext. 2
YWCA Niagara Region: Niagara Falls (emergency housing for women and is trans inclusive). For women and children they are located at 6135 Culp St., Niagara Falls and you can reach them at 905-988-3528 ext. 4025. For men, and families lead by men the contact number is 289-696-4466.
Nightlight Youth Shelter (LGBTQ+ friendly) is a group for youth aged 16-30 located at 5519 Ontario Ave., Niagara Falls. Their contact number is 905-358-3678.
Overnight Warming Shelter: This shelter is located at St. Andrews United Church, 5645 Morrison St. in Niagara Falls and are open every night from 7pm to 7am.
Project SHARE are located at 2-4129 Stanley Ave., Niagara Falls and you can contact them at 905-357-5121. Their client hours are on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday from 9:30am-3:30pm and on Wednesday from 9:30am-2:30pm.
The Soup Kitchen is located at the Niagara Falls Community Kitchen at 4865 St. Lawrence Ave., Niagara Falls and you can contact them at 905-354-1640 and they serve meals from 12-1pm every Monday to Friday. Their evening meals are served from 5-6pm every evening.
A note to family and friends:
For those who are friends and family of someone you know is struggling this holiday season, respect their wishes and the boundaries they have set. Do not push, just support. That could mean making them a playlist. Make them a care package. Bring them soup. Remind them they are awesome. Tell them you love them and why.
I really hope that this information reaches the people it needs to. It was amazing taking this opportunity to find out what is available for those who need it whether you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. We are all human and we deserve to be treated as equally.
Self-Care Over the Holidays: By Kate Alexander of OUTNiagara
#1: Celebrate YOU
Be proud of who you are, not just the sexually or gender diverse part of you, but all of you: what you’ve accomplished as an individual, friend, co-worker, family member. In times of loneliness, we forget how important we are to the people in our lives. You are awesome, and you deserve love and support.
#2: You are NOT alone.
Be around the people who affirm your identity whether it’s by phone, text, online or in person, connect with the folks that make you feel awesome. Be around other people that you can relate to and who love you for the wonderful person that you are, including your fellow LGBTQ+ community. We are all around you. Niagara’s community is growing, with several social groups established over the last couple of years such as the Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group, the LGBTQ+ Social Group, and The Niagara Regional Gay Men’s Group. All of them meet regularly, including over the month of December. All their events are on the OUT Niagara website at outniagara.ca.
#3. Boundaries – we all need them!
Self-care is about taking care of you, both physically and mentally. So, if you choose not to be around your family or limit the amount of time you spend with them that is perfectly ok! If it means for the sake of your mental health (or even physical) then that is a good choice. Your needs are unique to you, and only you really know what you need. So, listen to yourself and what you need to stay safe and healthy over the holidays.
#4. Netflix and chill… literally
When I say Netflix and chill, I really mean it. Binge on a new series or check some of the movies off that you’ve been meaning to watch that make you feel good. There are a lot of LGBTQ+ films on Netflix. We all know how amazing the acting and storylines are (insert sarcasm) but there is something in watching movies or shows where you and your community are represented. If you related to the other kind of Netflix and chill, do not forget to stay safe and take care of your sexual health!
#5. Music for the soul
Make a playlist of music you love. Listening to the music that makes you awesome when you need to step away for a bit can help distract you from the reality that is in the other room and get you back to feeling awesome again.
#6. In times of despair reach out and pick up the phone (more info is in the section above)
•Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366
•YouthLine.ca: 1-800-268-9688; Text: 647-694-4275; chat online at youthline.ca
•COAST Niagara: 1-866-550-5205
LGBTQ+ Events in December:
All of these events are on the OUT Niagara website at outniagara.ca and feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org and they will help in any way they can.
•December 1: The Niagara Roller Girls Adult Co-Ed Christmas Scrimmage!
The Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group is gathering for this FREE event to support the Niagara Roller Girls during this spirited holiday activity.
Meet at 7:30pm and look for Ada in the tie-dyed t-shirt at the Haig Bowl Arena, St. Catharines.
•December 4: Weekly Meet/Mingle at Mahtay Café
Held by the Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group. A weekly drop in event to connect with other LGBTQ+ women. Mahtay is a friendly, casual environment. They serve a variety of food and drink.
This event takes place at 7pm at Mahtay Café & Lounge, 241 St. Paul St., St. Catharines.
•December 4: ¡Hola // Mexican Dinner Night!
Hosted by the LGBTQ Social Group at the new Mexican restaurant, Lost + Found, that looks fresh and delicious.
This event runs from 7:30–10:30pm at 259 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines.
•December 12: Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group Holiday Dinner
Join the Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group for their holiday dinner party at Coppola’s in St. Catharines.
Meet at 7pm at Coppola’s Restaurant, 203 Carlton St., St. Catharines.
•December 18: Coffee Night Holiday Cookie Exchange (Competition Optional!)
Do you like cookies?!? If so, join the Niagara Women’s LGBTQ+ Group for coffee night at Mahtay on December 18th for a Holiday Cookie Exchange!!!
Meet at 7pm at Mahtay Café & Lounge, 241 St. Paul St. St. Catharines.
•December 18: Strike! // Bowling Night
Because it was so much fun the LGBTQ Social Group Niagara is hosting its second bowling night. This event is from 7-9pm at Cataract Bowl, 7906 Lundys Lane, Niagara Falls.
•December 28: Live! // Open Mic Night
This is a monthly activity hosted by the LGBTQ Social Group Niagara with a variety of local talent performing live throughout the evening.
This event takes place from 6– 9pm at Third Space Café, 4345 Queen St, Niagara Falls.
From all of us here at The Sound, LGBTQ+ In the City and all the volunteers that made this month’s article possible. We wish you Season’s Greetings and a happy new year! Until next time readers, be kind to yourself.