Windsor Essex Trans Support opens first standalone transgender support centre in Ontario

The Windsor Essex Trans Support group has opened up the first transgender support centre in Ontario.

'It just shows that we are making a huge difference in this community'

Here's what Ontario's first standalone transgender support centre looks like. 0:58

Two years ago Jayce Carver was working out of her car in Windsor-Essex trying to help provide supports for transgender people living in the region.

Now Carver is part of a team that's opened a standalone, drop-in transgender support centre in Windsor, Ont. — the first of its kind in the province.

Executive Director of Windsor Essex Trans Support Jayce Carver said a grand opening will be held at the end of the month. (Stacey Janzier/CBC)

"I think our community is saying that they're ready to be visible, that they're tired of being in the shadows," said Carver, who is the executive director of Windsor Essex Trans Support. 

People that attend the centre will have access to a food bank, clothing donations and support services that are client-centred.

Core location

The office is located in Windsor's core with easy access to a hospital, transitional stability centre, the Windsor pride office, and other LGBTQ organizations. 

"Sometimes trans identified people don't feel comfortable accessing those services independently so with having somewhere here full time we can assist them," said Carver. 

This drop in centre is located at 111 Wyandotte Street West and is open 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. (Stacey Janzier/CBC)

Carver remembers the early days sitting in a meeting as a transgender support worker, with 10 people in attendance. Now she says there's times when she's surrounded by 40 to 50 people.

Twenty people came through the centre when it opened this week. 

"That all depends on what their goals are," said Carver, when asked what kind of supports are offered. 

Filling out documents, finding safe shelter and arranging transitioning supports are some of the services that the centre will provide to clients. 

Funding model

Carver said that some programing is funded through a Windsor Pride Festival Trillium grant while other supports are paid for by private funding partners and donations from the public. 

"There is really no government funding right now, we're not eligible until a year of incorporation which is coming up," said Carver, who said it costs about $40 a day to operate the centre. 

"I don't think $40 is too much to bring people out of isolation and bring the suicide rates down."

The centre will offer a variety of programming as well as a clothing donation centre and food bank. (Stacey Janizer/CBC)

Carver is currently the only full-time worker with a part-time facilitator also on staff who is part of specific youth program run out of the centre.  

"The majority is volunteer because we don't have the funding to pay staff," said Carver, who said there are 15 people signed up to help. 

"They're doing amazing work in the community and now with their new centre open it's just going to expand even more," said David Lenz, President of Windsor Pride Fest, who calls the centre revolutionary. 

"It just shows that we are making a huge difference in this community."

President of Windsor Pride Festival David Lenz said that this centre is an example of LGBTQ groups working together. (Stacey Janzier/CBC)

Lenz said the next step for LGBTQ support centres is to continue working together to improve community needs. 

The Windsor Pride Fest has a three year Trillium grant that they're able to partner with W.E. Trans to ensure the programming fits demands. 

W.E Trans Centre Programming

Here's what is being offered at the centre:

  • Clothing donations
    • Carver said this is one of the largest expenses for people transitioning as they purchase new clothes that match the gender identity they will present as
  • Food bank
    • Trans people dealing with food insecurity have a big barrier when accessing some traditional food banks, according to Carver. They may have to show identification that doesn't match the gender identity they're presenting as. The W.E Trans food bank won't ask for ID. 
  • Tran Spectrum
    • ​A peer support group run by trans-identified people for trans-identified people, which Carver said gives people a space to talk openly. 
  • T 2
    • This group is for friends, families and allies "because they go on a journey of their own," said Carver.
  • T-Party
    • ​A group social that meets once a month that aims to support people who are living in isolation and create a level of comfort for people to be in the community in a group setting.