Centre to bring people, groups together

A partnership of Scarborough groups is pointing residents to community engagement. Residents in the Kingston-Galloway area who want to improve their communities can now hook up with local organizations at the new centre, The Point, to get help.

The Point opened on March 23, bringing together The United Way, East Scarborough Storefront, Residents Rising, and U of T Scarborough

“The partnership will help to break down a lot of barriers between community groups and residents. They can come together and be empowered as they make a difference in their community,” Councillor Paul Ainslie said (Ward 43, Scarborough East).

The Point will serve as a meeting place where local groups can listen to the concerns of the residents. Ainslie said by working together they can better understand the neighbourhood’s issues and propose practical solutions.

“Instead of having two different agencies asking for the same funding, they can now unite and get funding for the same program,” Ainslie said. “Governmental and private groups can collaborate and get done a lot more.”

The centre, located at 4117 Lawrence Ave. East, has a classroom, a meeting room, library resources and offices.

The Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood was identified by United Way as one of the 13 priority neighbourhoods in Toronto. It’s a transit-based neighbourhood with a large population of newcomers and a low employment rate. Other priority neighbourhoods include Scarborough Village and Malvern.

In 2005, United Way started an initiative called Action for Neighbourhood Change to develop the social services of priority neighbourhoods. Through the ANC program United Way funds local agencies that deliver services and create community events. Most of the funding is given in the first two years so that agencies can launch the new projects.

“Our main focus for the first three months is to talk to people and draw their ideas as we do a study of the community,” Iain Duncan said, ANC Resident Engagement worker. “Nobody knows better what the problems and the solutions are than the residents themselves.”

He explained the problem is a lack of power and resources and without them the community goes nowhere. ANC gives residents access to the resources needed to create their own change, Duncan added.

“Our goal is to promote resident engagement because this is a resident led-development,” Duncan said.

This resident engagement is what the students from U of T Scarborough will be studying in their course called Learning in Community Service. The City Studies students will do research on the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood and volunteer four hours a week at local agencies, such as Westhill Community Services and East Scarborough Storefront.

“The course is mutually beneficial for students and residents. Students get hands-on experience and also add more energy to the existing projects happening in the neighbourhood,” Susannah Bunce said, U of T geography professor.

Bunce explained that students will develop maps and statistics of the region for residents and write research papers on housing and transit issues. The course will start in the summer semester.

“The objective of the course is to let students bring their skills and knowledge into the community to generate more action,” Bunce said.