The Lighthouse Project (2017-2018) explored the role that faith-based organizations (FBOs) might play as resilience hubs for climate-related stresses and extreme weather emergencies in disadvantaged urban environments of three cities. This paper discusses the role that public health played in these initiatives and makes an appeal for more participatory, community-engaged public health in light of the persistent gaps in its approach to equitable climate change preparedness.
Pilots were initiated in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA): Brampton's Emergency Managers offered pre-selected FBO volunteers specialized training to be part of the city's emergency response in establishing FBO sites as emergency muster stations. An environmental organization in Hamilton explored how its existing networks could rally around a local social resilience challenge, and a community organizer in Toronto undertook network building to support mostly newcomer populations in one inner-city neighbourhood. All pilots used a mix of cold calling, workshops, municipal presentations, and participation in local programming and public events. Two convened local working groups.
By the end of the pilot, Brampton's Emergency Management Office had made one contractual relationship with an FBO and its volunteers. In Hamilton, a multi-stakeholder network emerged to support the climate preparedness of agencies serving local vulnerable populations. In Toronto, a residents' working group was established to address neighbour well-being and emergency response in one apartment tower. Work in all three communities is ongoing.
Multi-stakeholder support for community organizations and local volunteers can enable partnerships in neighbourhood-level climate resilience-before, during and after extreme weather events. Public Health, while not typically top-of-mind as a key ally in this work, is well positioned to make a contribution. Consistent with place-based approaches, an emergent community development design enabled community animators to catalyze collaborations to suit the on-the-ground realities of each site.