Community Hubs in Toronto

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...

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Last summer, Prince Charles announced the Pub is a Hub program had spread to over 400 English villages. Offering community services in the unused rooms, the program expects to save the institution of the hub and alleviate some of the needs of rural communities.

HRH explained,

The key is to identify what is needed in each community and meet that need using spare rooms or land at the local pub, whether it is a shop, playground, meals for the elderly or even allotments [community gardens]. There are so many benefits.

Community hubs serve three important functions in neighbourhoods:

  1. Services: A wide range to meet local need, providing wrap-a-round to a client’s multiple needs.
  2. Space: An accessible, neutral place for local residents
  3. Synergy: A critical mass of services which improves access and delivery to residents, and which creates the opportunity to strengthen social networks

It’s what neighbourhood centres have known and practiced for a long time: Respond to local need, build community.

Jane Jacobs (another timely reference with Jane’s Walks days away), explained that community hubs are

always where there’s a crossing or a convergence. You can’t stop a hub from developing in such a place. You can’t make it develop if you don’t have such a place.

In Toronto, community hubs are popping up in schools, in strip malls, street corners and libraries. The City government has incubators for business, fashion and food;United Way Toronto has thirteen in development or launched; the Toronto District School Board is launching Full Use Schools alongside its broader Community Use of Schools initiative; and community groups ranging from Artscape creating community art spaces to church congregations looking for new uses for old buildings are exploring the concept of creating neighbourhood spaces.

This week, the Intergovernmental Committee on Economic and Labour Force Development (ICE Committee) released a summary report  and profiles I wrote cataloguing these many initiatives. It’s just an overview but should create the opportunity for more discussions.

If hubs are the solution, what’s the problem?

Neighbourhood centres: From the history of social justice among settlement houses to community hubs’ modern place-based approach

Community hubs recommended for young and old

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