top of page
Search

HSH Executive Director Dr. Sara Cumming - a Woman of Distinction


Home Suite Hope Executive Director Sara Cumming was nominated in the YWCA Hamilton’s 2023 Women of Distinction Awards.


The awards shine a light on the women and girls who build Hamilton & Halton and the awards gala, attended by HSH staff and Board members, was held March 2 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.


“…I had the privilege of standing on stage with incredibly talented, motivated, fierce, empathetic, trailblazing women of distinction nominees. I was in awe of the amazing work being done by so many women, many of whom spent their lives hearing “you can’t”. We can. We do. We will continue,” said Sara.


“Thank you to my colleagues at HSH and Sheridan College, who nominated me and wrote such lovely letters of support, to the YWCA for the event and for the incredible work you do, to all the incredible sponsors who make events like this possible, and to all my felllow nominees who humbled me in so many ways,” Sara said.



Sara is an award-winning applied sociologist with a PhD in Sociology from the University of Waterloo. Sara's doctoral work focused on the intersections of gender, social policy, and work for lone-mother families across Canada. She has expanded her work to focus specifically on collaborative and participatory approaches to solving community-based issues for vulnerable populations.



Sara is a Professor at Sheridan College, in addition to being the Executive Director of Home Suite Hope, an organization that supports single-parent families as they journey from poverty to potential through a four-year housing, education and employment program.

Sara leads with years of lived experience as a single parent who exited social assistance through a personal education and employment pathway.



The YWCA Hamilton was 137 years ago and its legacy of recognizing fierce women and changemakers began 47 years ago and continues today with over 1,800 women having been celebrated for their remarkable achievements in their sectors and communities.


To learn more about Sara, read the Faces of Home Suite Hope 2022: Staff Edition.


By training, Sara is an Applied Sociologist and Professor of Sociology with over two decades of research experience that focuses on lone mothers and social policy. This is in addition to her personal resilience as she raised her own children as a single mother while completing her PhD in Sociology. Sara shares a wealth of knowledge and expertise as she leads Home Suite Hope.


I was raised by a teenage single mother receiving social assistance in a rural area with no access to transportation. My childhood was defined by poverty and dysfunction happening around me.


Eventually I was a young, single mom. Thanks to several mentors who cared enough to show me that there was another way — a new world that included education, OSAP and, ultimately, bigger opportunities — my children now have a better projection for life and pursuing their own post-secondary education and careers.


My involvement with Home Suite Hope started in 2016. It began with being the first researcher to do a study on the Homeward Bound Halton program, then it evolved to being a member of the Program Advisory Committee and coordinating Sheridan College’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ annual participation in the Hope 4 Holidays campaign. I then moved into providing consultancy work and helping with redesigning the program in 2018 and, in 2019, I took on my current role as Executive Director.


Why do you think HSH is so important in our community?


People are struggling to make ends meet every day in this affluent community. Two-parent families get to share household and earning responsibilities, whereas single parents are expected to do both. Home Suite Hope helps protect the latter from long-term homelessness and patterns of generational poverty. These families are given the tools to build self-sufficient and resilient lives; skills that are then passed on to their children.


What is something you wish more people knew about HSH?


We don’t just provide charity — we arm people with the tools to build strong lives and our success rate is extremely high. I wish that people understood how much the current housing situation limits our ability to have more impact. Housing is ridiculously expensive in Halton — the average monthly rent for a two bedroom in Halton is approximately $2,800. Our participants can’t afford that even with our housing allowance. Soon this may impede our ability to have the same kind of impact we are used to having.


COVID-19 was a curveball no one expected, how did HSH stay resilient through this time?


We were very fortunate to have such an amazing community of supporters around us who stepped up quickly. Physical donations of household and personal hygiene items flooded in the door and current donors allowed us to divert funds to COVID-19 relief while new donors stepped up to the plate. I have never been so thankful to be located within the Halton Region as I was during this pandemic. However, the after-effects of the past three years are now starting to catch up to us. Most everyone is now feeling those effects.


How has the current housing market impacted HSH participants and programming?


HSH’s programming may become obsolete if we don’t either acquire our own affordable housing build, or partner with builders and property managers who understand what deeply affordable housing looks like.


We work hard to provide wrap services around our clients while they actively work to improve their family’s circumstance. This is dependent upon us being able to provide a transitional housing subsidy while they go to school/training and obtain full-time employment. We cannot transition families into self-sufficiency if their full-time employment still can’t cover the cost of rent in Halton.


Outside of Home Suite Hope



I continue to work in Academia. I am currently working on the second year of two large three-year grants - one to help guide Technical Vocation Education Training (TVET) centres in Kenya to gender equality in education and the workplace, and the other focusing on building life skills in Halton Region and surrounding areas.


I am also in the second of three terms on Sheridan College’s Board of Governors and Research Ethics Board. I will celebrate my tenth anniversary as a Professor of Sociology at Sheridan College in 2023! In my ‘spare’ time, I am currently writing the second edition of my textbook, Sociology Unlocked, which is due for publication by Oxford University Press in 2024.




12 views
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page