Neighbourhood Improvement Areas: A Humber focus

Eleven agencies are located under one roof at the Rexdale Community Hub. | Charles Tang Eleven agencies are located under one roof at the Rexdale Community Hub. | Charles Tang

Charles Tang
News Reporter

Toronto city council named two more North Etobicoke neighbourhoods along with Jamestown and 28 other communities to the list of “Neighbourhood Improvement Areas” (NIA).

First introduced as “priority neighbourhoods” in 2005 under the Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy (TSNS), these designated neighbourhoods receive $30 million in extra funding and community services from the public and private sectors.

Unlike previous strategies, the city developed a Neighbourhood Equity Score system this year to rank and identify the NIAs. Five key metrics, which include economic opportunities, social development, healthy lives, participation in decision-making and physical surroundings used to determine the state of the communities.

In Jamestown, the opening of Rexdale Community Hub, where 11 agencies are located under the same roof, has benefited the neighborhood.

The hub provides the youth an outlet to explore their creativity, imagination, giving them an opportunity to learn at their pace and how they want to learn.
Yvonne Reid, Youth Worker with MicroSkill

Yvonne Reid, a youth worker with MicroSkill, one of the agencies in the Hub, said the hub is a positive for the community.

“I am very thankful for the Hub,” she said. “People can just move from one service partner to another instead of travelling…it makes it a lot easier for individuals to navigate services that is so needed for themselves.”

“The hub provides the youth an outlet to explore their creativity, imagination, giving them an opportunity to learn at their pace and how they want to learn,” Reid said.

Humber College has been working extensively with the community before and after the TSNS was introduced, said Sabra Desai, Humber’s manager of Community Partnership Development.

“One of the big projects Humber (is involved in) was the setting up of the Rexdale ProTech Media Centre,” Desai said.

Humber students and faculties were involved in the process of setting up the centre to teach digital arts technologies to local youths.

Working with the Rexdale Community Health Centre located in the Hub, Humber also brought the Pathway to Education program to Rexdale, Desai said.

“The focus was to help students engage with schooling, remain in school and succeed in education so that it will open up pathways to post-secondary education and in the long term, these students would become more engage as citizen and contributed to their communities, which is part of Humber’s mandate as well,” she said.

Humber also provides capacity building program for local residents who want to set up their own non-profit organization.

Humber being located in the northeastern part of Toronto was one of the big resources and assets to the community.
Geraldine Babcock, director of Community Outreach and Workforce Development at Humber

“We help the residents here to learn about how to establish and run non-profit organization,” Desai said, including advice on the financial and human resources, and in developing programs to meet the needs of the community.

The lack of social infrastructure is a measure the city uses to determine if a neighbourhood should be designated as priority, according to Geraldine Babcock, director of Community Outreach and Workforce Development at Humber.

“Humber being located in the northeastern part of Toronto was one of the big resources and assets to the community,” she said.

At the same time, Humber is working with other educational institutions and the United Way in Toronto to provide community based programs.

Babcock said looking into problems within the newly identified NIAs also fits with Humber’s strategic plan reach out into the community.

Babcock, who has worked with the city previously, said she’s pleased on the new system the city adopted to identify NIAs.

“The problem with the media last time is they want a quick solution,” Babcock said. “The root causes (of the problems) are so deep that it is not something that can be changed overnight.”

“It’s a planting of seed, it’s a building of capacity, it’s a building of strength of the community, gradually and purposefully,” she said.

Babcock said the good thing is that this time there is a deeper discussion and a better understanding of the issues.

“The city is kick starting of those discussions, which is critical for the local government to do,” she said. “It’s really exciting as we are able to dip deeper.”

Back in the Rexdale Community Hub, Kaye Bromfield, an information and resources specialist at MicroSkills is less optimistic.

She is concern about the stigma associated with community, and the division between neighbourhoods.

“(T)here’s only so much you can do,” Bromfield said. “There’s a whole lot more of these pocket of areas, which are underserved. They need a different type of model to change these neighbourhoods.”

Bromfield hopes to see more education programs are put in place.

“I want them to make sure the children achieve something…give them an opportunity to become doctors, lawyers,” she said. “They have to get to the roots of what the issues are, the cause of why these neighbourhoods become a high priority, they need to assess first then you can make a change, a sustainable change.”

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