COVID-19 has had serious and potentially long-lasting impacts on communities. While the recovery will be long and difficult for everyone, small and rural communities face particular challenges. Research by the University of Guelph (U of G), supported by United Way Perth-Huron’s Social Research and Planning Council (SRPC), the County of Huron, Perth County, the City of Stratford, the Town of St. Marys, the Huron Arts and Heritage Network and the Listowel Salvation Army aims to ensure rural voices are heard.
“Fifteen per cent of Ontarians live in small communities and rural environments and these areas have a unique voice,” says Leith Deacon, assistant professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Design & Rural Development. “We want to make sure that voice is heard. We’re looking forward to working in Perth and Huron Counties to learn about the concerns and anxieties of local people as communities look for ways to recover from the pandemic.”
The survey aims to determine what planning is required to best support ongoing recovery in Perth and Huron and how to best increase resilience and well-being over the longer term. Researchers aim to identify vulnerable populations, determine priority programs including mental health, income and food security, and education specifically to support those populations during and after COVID-19, explore opportunities for the non-profit sector and identify emergent mental health and economic concerns. The project is funded through Mitacs, a non-profit research organization that, through partnerships with Canadian academia, private industry and government, operates research and training in fields related to social and industrial innovation.
All residents over the age of 18 are encouraged to complete the survey in an effort to capture the most accurate data that reflects the experiences of people from across Huron and Perth Counties. The survey takes roughly half an hour to complete and is now open in both Perth and Huron. Residents can visit linktr.ee/RURAL_RESPONSE to complete the online version of the survey. All households within Huron County will also receive a paper copy in the mail including a prepaid return envelope.
“We’re looking forward to the results of this important survey,” said SRPC Director of Planning, Susanna Reid. “This research will form the basis of our future research and planning efforts in Perth and Huron Counties. Everyone’s voice is important. What we learn from this research will help shape programs and policies that will be tailored to local needs.”
For more information on the research team, visit www.sustainablecommunityplanning.com