Services, Space, & Synergy:
Neighbourhood Centres and the magic of community hubs
Community hubs are a good thing. There is little disagreement on the importance of places for local residents to meet, mix and mingle. United Way Toronto and the City made building hubs a key plank in their Strong Neighbourhood strategies.
Founded as a community centre in 1937, out of the Settlement House tradition, WoodGreen understands the synergy created when people get together, when services wrap around them, and stronger social networks emerge.
For the past two years, WoodGreen worked with partners, like the SPACE Coalition, to actively push for system-level change. We knew many of us agree community hubs are a good idea; the hard part, that we don’t usually get to, was figuring out how things like “place-based delivery” of services, “integrated service delivery” and “the settlement house advantage” could be brought to every Ontario community. Cathy Dandy, a former school trustees for this area, led our small group of determined folk. We met across the street at The Only Café.
Then, in May 2014, , through a grant from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, this small group, now called CAFE, hosted a symposium which brought decision-makers from school boards, non-profits, municipal and provincial governments together to talk about how this might be done. It was a strong demonstration of the political will ready to move the idea of hubs forward.
This past March, Premier Kathleen Wynne, having named community hubs as a priority to several of her Ministers, appointed CAFE member and east-ender Karen Pitre as her Special Advisor on Community Hubs. WoodGreen is delighted to see this work lifted outside the siloes of different Ministries and levels of government.
This new provincial conversation recognizes the good work already being done across the province by many local heroes, and WoodGreen will continue to support the work.
For updates, and to give input, see www.ontario.ca/communityhubs.
Diane Dyson is Director, Research & Public Policy at WoodGreen