Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy
Helping residents find their voice
Shortly after moving to Canada with her family, Christina joined her local Action for Neighbourhood Change’s pedestrian safety committee, allowing her to get to know her community and actively contribute to it.
Helping strengthen our city’s high-rise communities
Many low-income families find more affordable housing in privately owned rental apartments. With support from United Way, Jamal and his neighbours are working together to turn their apartment building into a thriving community.
Closing gaps and creating opportunities in Toronto’s inner suburbs
Building Strong Neighbourhoods: Closing gaps and creating opportunities in Toronto’s inner suburbs provides an update on United Way’s work to improve conditions in neighbourhoods where there is an increasing concentration of poverty. The report outlines major milestones we’ve achieved against our goal of ensuring that no one in our city is disadvantaged because of where they live.
In 2005, our research report Poverty by Postal Code pointed to a growing concentration of low-income individuals and families in isolated pockets in Toronto’s inner suburbs. In response, United Way launched our Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy (BSNS) in 2006. This strategy focuses on strengthening these communities through targeted efforts, resident engagement and improved access to social services and programs. By leveraging our strengths, we’re focused on revitalizing neighbourhoods—strengths like strong relationships with community agencies and local leaders, a committed base of generous donors, and an ability to bring together partners across different sectors to achieve shared goals. We’ve set out to achieve three main goals through BSNS: focusing our efforts on where they’re needed most, supporting neighbourhood change from within and improving access to community supports.
Action for Neighbourhood Change
People are healthier when they feel like they’re a part of their community. They’re also more likely to stay and raise their family in a neighbourhood where they have strong social connections to other people who live there. Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC) works to strengthen connections between residents and develop local networks to create inclusive, vibrant neighbourhoods where people feel a strong sense of belonging. ANC also helps build and strengthen local leadership, which is critical for responding to important community issues. We’ve seen that when people have the right skills and opportunities they can champion long-term change where they live.
ANC is the foundation of our efforts to engage local residents and support their capacity for community revitalization. ANC initiatives have been established in all 13 priority neighbourhoods. To date, more than 675 residents have participated in capacity-building workshops, helping draw out existing knowledge and expertise and to build skills in new areas.
Resident Action Grants
A Resident Action Plan has been developed in each neighbourhood to identify local priorities and guide community action. These are now the foundation of community planning in priority neighbourhoods. Resident Action Grants support grassroots projects responding to local challenges and opportunities, offering residents valuable opportunities to get to know their neighbours and engage in their community.
Resident Action Grants totaling more than $670,000 funded 132 local projects and neighbourhood improvements identified by community members are a unique tool for supporting resident identified priorities. They are the only grants directly available to people in priority neighbourhoods. The investments have funded a variety of projects and initiatives: playgrounds for local kids; community gardens and kitchens that promote healthy living; and recreational and cultural activities for everyone from youth to seniors.
As part of our goal to increase access to services, we’ve invested in Community Hubs—local infrastructure with health services and social programs targeted to local needs, all under one roof—which means that services are easy to get to and people can access the supports they need. By building Community Hubs, United Way has improved access to essential social services—creating a foundation for a healthy neighbourhood. Altogether, our Community Hubs house 54 community organizations that have already been accessed by residents over 63,000 times. A new Hub is currently in development.
Hubs also offer accessible and flexible community space intended for a variety of uses, not just formal programs. This means that people can participate in community life by using Hubs as a gathering place where they can visit with their friends and neighbours. They’re also centres of engagement and capacity building where residents can participate in community activities. By bringing health services right into the inner suburban neighborhoods, we are connecting residents with the tools they need to lead healthier lives.
Tower Neighbourhood Renewal
In response to findings from our Vertical Poverty report, we announced $800,000 to support a new initiative called Tower Neighbourhood Renewal. Building on the community revitalization work of our Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy, this initiative engages residents to help foster local renewal and economic development in three of Toronto’s rental tower communities.