Advocacy has always been a primary role for The BRIDGE. Not only for our clients directly but also the community itself, hopefully for a restorative and just community. This responsibility is becoming even more important as society is afraid and becoming understandably increasingly intolerant of crime and violence.
We do this important work in a number of ways; by speaking in churches, by developing and nurturing supportive resources, by holding our clients accountable and by always remaining respectful and sensitive to the community, especially the victims. On one level we are all victims and certainly the stories in the media around horrific violence including war makes many of us want to fight back, and we do, but we fight toward reconciliation. We believe that true healing is found in reconciliation and restoration and as such we loudly promote this philosophy. Our work of calling upon our faith in spite of our mutual and shared fears is a difficult task. Although challenging, the benefits are sometimes very obvious and rewarding.
Sometimes we are called to appear in court to speak on behalf of one of our clients who has stumbled. This is where our reputation is most effective and sometimes most challenged. Our proven methods and approach to honest accountability has earned the trust and respect of many justice officials including judges, probation officers and police and most importantly our clients. We advocate for a more compassionate approach to justice including continued community corrections as an alternative to incarceration, but we also promote responsibility and accountability including plans for restitution and reconciliation.
Recently reports in the media have brought attention to violent crimes particularly gun crime in Toronto. This adverse publicity is having a two-fold effect on our work; first; all offenders are being viewed more harshly, which is in turn creating a more difficult social climate for them to re-enter, and secondly, the need for our services is increasing with this rise in concern and fear. So while the need is growing, so is the degree of difficulty. We do however continue to address this critical issue as we move forward.
We continue working to address the critical issue of inmates and in particular young people returning to the community without adequate support and fitting resources. The crisis for affordable housing still demands our direct intervention whether with landlords, the shelter system or Social Services. $535.00 a month (welfare payments) is barely enough to live on, and with increased heating and electrical costs, finding rental accommodation that is affordable requires much more effort. Suitable housing and appropriate employment remain the critical pieces in our re-integration efforts. Not only do we work toward assisting with our client’s needs, but we also work toward assisting the community in coming to grips with the controversial notion that working with the offender is in fact working toward crime prevention and fewer victims. Sometimes a chance is all that’s needed. Not always of course, but sometimes and it is from that sense of hope that we can honestly advocate on behalf of members of both sides of the issue of crime and broken relationships.