Just one year after Vancouver’s Out Under the Rainbow Spaces Society (OUR Spaces) finally acquired charitable status, the grassroots group, which aimed to build a multipurpose queer community centre, has disbanded.
Former president Richard Engelhardt says low membership and poor leadership on his part are to blame for the collapse. “We didn’t have the people power to carry it out,” he says.
“I don’t think I was very effective in communicating things and putting out the model,” he continues. “I think the concept was pretty vague for people to grasp.”
Despite attempts to raise awareness and increase membership, at the time of its collapse OUR Spaces had only 15 members, four of whom attended the annual general meeting on April 27, where the decision was made to dissolve the organization.
Engelhardt hopes the group’s vision of a multipurpose queer community centre with shared space under a non-profit landlord for local organizations won’t be lost.
“I wanted to see the creation of a queer community space,” he says. “I wanted to create an organization that was neutral so that others could utilize the space, and I wanted the space to be sustainable.”
Engelhardt says he would be happy to share OUR Spaces’ research with anyone interested, including Qmunity’s upcoming community consultation. The City of Vancouver in December allocated BC’s queer resource centre Qmunity $7 million in amenity funds from a nearby development to build a new centre.
“We did create a good body of knowledge, and if someone would like to pick up the project, we’d be willing to share that,” Engelhardt says. “Queer community space will continue to be a need in Vancouver.”
Engelhardt says one of OUR Spaces’ former board members will notify the Canada Revenue Agency of the group’s dissolution. He says the group issued no tax receipts since obtaining the charitable status in May 2013.
“I truly believe in OUR Spaces’ vision of creating accessible and sustainable queer community spaces,” Engelhardt says, “but I was unfortunately unable to engage the community with that vision.”