A five-year research initiative funded by the
Community University Research Alliance (CURA) program of the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
A participatory research and community development partnership between
St. Christopher House
Centre for Urban and Community Studies
In December 2004 the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's Community-University Research Alliance Program announced that it has approved a proposal for a $1 million five-year community-based research initiative focused on neighbourhood change.
The lead partners in this Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) are St. Christopher House, Toronto and the Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto.
Key points from the proposal are provided below.
Keywords : neighbourhoods; community development; gentrification; urban/community planning; affordable housing; globalization; social change; social justice; social services; public policy; participatory research
For the December 2010 report, click here
For the media release, click here
1. Can we preserve existing lower-income and socially and ethnically mixed, affordable neighbourhoods in the face of forces that are raising costs (particularly housing costs) and displacing or excluding certain people, businesses, and community services?
2. How can people in urban neighbourhoods successfully shape the development of their environment to create a community that is socially cohesive and inclusive?
3. What can we learn from recent and emerging community practice about effective action against negative forces and support for positive forces to ensure better outcomes?
2006 Census Update of Research Bulletin #41 maps & data
Neighbourhood Gentrification and Upgrading in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, by R.A. Walks and R. Maaranen, September 2008
The Timing, Patterning, & Forms of Gentrification & Neighbourhood Upgrading in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, 1961 to 2001, by R.A. Walks and R. Maaranen, May 2008
Diversity and Concentration in Canadian Immigration: Trends in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, 1971 - 2006, by R. Murdie, March 2008
The Three Cities Within Toronto: Income Polarization Among Toronto's Neighbourhoods, 1970 - 2000, by J.D. Hulchanski, December 2007
Urban Density in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, by P. Hess, A. Sorensen & K.
Parizeau, May 2007
Toronto's Little Portugal: A Neighbourhood in Transition, C. Teixeira, March 2007
Liberty Village: The Makeover of Toronto's King and Dufferin Area, January 2007
Bringing People Together First: Gentrification Dynamics and Inclusive Communities in South West Toronto, September 2006
"Gentrification Dynamics and Inclusive Communities in South West Toronto:" A Report on the Volunteer Engagement Forum September 2006
Gentrification and Displacement Revisited: A Fresh Look at the New York City Experience, July 2006
Your Neighbourhood: How it's Changing, Fall, 2005
Gentrification and Displacement—Community Responses & Policy Options: An Inventory of Case Examples of Neighbourhood Initiatives, July 2005
Toronto's West-Central Neighbourhoods: A Profile of the St. Christopher House Catchment Area, Community Newsletter #1, June 2005
Taking the Pulse: Gauging Neighbourhood Change in Toronto's Downtown West End, May 2005
Toronto's South Parkdale Neighbourhood: A Brief History of Development, Disinvestment, and Gentrification, May 2005
Ethnic Identity, Place Marketing, and Gentrification in Toronto, J. Hackworth & J. Rekers, April 2005
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Study Area Map with basic trends, 1971-2001
Map Series 1: Change in West Central Toronto
DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE: Children and Youth; Seniors; One Person
Households; Persons who Moved
PLACE OF BIRTH CHANGE: Born in Canada; Recent Immigrants
SOCIAL ECONOMIC STATUS CHANGE: Household Income; Persons in Management Occupations
HOUSING CHANGE: Dwelling Values; Monthly Rents; Rented Dwellings; Apartments
Map Series 2: Context—Change in Toronto's Inner City
POPULATION CHANGE: Recent immigrants; Persons with a university degree; persons employed in artistic occupations
HOUSING STOCK CHANGE: Monthly rent; Owners/renters & new construction
ECONOMIC CHANGE: Employment income; Income trends; Place of work
Map Series 3: Income & Gentrification Trends in West Central Toronto
1970 Average Individual Income
2000 Average Individual Income
1970 to 2000 Change in Average Individual Income
Neighbourhood Gentrification Trends, 1961 to 2001
Map Series 4: 2006 Ethnocultural Profile of West Central Toronto
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Meeting #1 March 30, 2005
Meeting #2 June 6-7, 2005
Meeting #3 November 1, 2005
Meeting #4 March 6, 2006
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Toronto's Rental Housing: Neo-Liberal Policies, Market Failure and Neighbourhood Housing Tenure Polarization, Urban Affairs Association, Seattle, April 2007. J. David Hulchanski.
Deconstructing Neighbourhood Transitions: The Contributions of Demographic, Immigration, Life Style and Housing Stock Changes, Urban Affairs Association, Seattle, April 2007. Larry S. Bourne.
Ethnic Transformation and Gentrification in West-Central Toronto, American Association of Geographers, San Francisco, April 2007. Robert Murdie.
Neighborhoods and Urban Transformation: The New Global Context, Urban
Affairs Association, Montreal, April 2006. R. Alan Walks.
The Suburbanization of the "Non-Gentry": Toronto's Inner Suburbs. Urban Affairs Association, Montreal, April 2006. J. David Hulchanski.
Does Gentrification Lead to Greater Social Polarization? Evidence from Large Canadian Cities, 1971 - 2001 R. Alan Walks and Richard Maaranen
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Blair Badcock, Housing New Zealand Corporation
Larry Bourne, Geography/Planning, UofT
Robert S. Brown, Toronto District School Board
Shawn Conway, St. Christopher House
James Dunn, St. Michael's Hospital & UofT
Rick Eagan, St. Christopher House
Maureen Fair, St. Christopher House
Ray Forrest, University of Bristol
Usha George, Dean, Community Services, Ryerson University
Jason Hackworth, Geography/Planning, UofT
Murtaza Haider, Business, Ryerson University
Joe Hermer, Criminology/Sociology, UofT
Anne Hertz, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health
Rob Howarth, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres
David Hulchanski, CUCS, UofT
Hugh Lawson, Toronto Community Housing Corporation
David Ley, Geography, The University of British Columbia
Harvey Low, City of Toronto
Susan MacDonnell, Research, United Way of Greater Toronto
Lynn McDonald, Centre on Life Course & Aging / Social Work, UofT
Eric J. Miller, Joint Program in Transportation, UofT
Robert Murdie, Geography, York University
Odete Nascimentoe, St. Christopher House
Sylvia Novac, CUCS, UofT
Susan Pigott, CEO, St. Christopher House
Jack Quarter, Community Development, UofT
Katharine N. Rankin, Geography/Planning, UofT
Damaris Rose, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Montreal
Daniel Schugurensky, Community Development, UofT
Tom Slater, University of Bristol
Janet L. Smith, Urban Planning, University of Illinois at Chicago
Valerie Tarasuk, Nutrition, UofT
Carlos Teixeira, Geography, UBC Okanagan
Alan Walks, Geography, UofT
Beth Wilson, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto
Jennifer Woodill, St. Christopher House
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St. Christopher House
Centre for Urban and Community Studies, UofT
Central Toronto Community Health Centres
Centre for Addictions and Mental Health
City of Toronto, Community & Neighbourhood Services
College-Montrose Children's Place
Community Social Planning Council of Toronto
ESRC Centre for Neighbourhood Research, UK
Faculty of Social Work, UofT
HouseLink Community Homes
Housing New Zealand Corporation
Institute for Life Course and Aging, UofT
Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration & Settlement
Voorhees Center for Neighborhood Improvement, U of Illinois
Niagara Neighbourhood Residents' Association (no web link)
Parkdale Community Legal Services Inc.
Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation
Portuguese Interagency Network
Portuguese Women 55+ Support Association
Programme in Planning, UofT
Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents' Association
Sistering: A Woman's Place
Society of Portuguese Disabled Persons (no web link)
Stephen Bulger Gallery
Toronto Neighbourhood Centres
United Way of Greater Toronto
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St. Christopher House (SCH)
Boundary: Bathurst Street,
Bloor Street, Roncesvalles, Lake Ontario
here to enlarge map
Rankings of the 7 Neighbourhoods in the Study Area
Based on 922 Toronto CMA census tracts with income
(1=richest, 922 = poorest).
Compiled by Alan Walks and Larry Bourne.
click here to view pdf
here to enlarge map
“Economic and social
development and environmental protection are interdependent
and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable human
Economically buoyant, socially vibrant and environmentally
sound human settlements under conditions of continuing and
rapid urbanization will increasingly depend on the capacity
of all levels of government to reflect the priorities of
communities, to encourage and guide local development and
forge partnerships between the private, public, voluntary
and community sectors…
Capacity-building is thus to be directed towards supporting
decentralization and the participatory urban management
– Habitat Agenda, 1996,
Section IV D, Capacity Building and Institutional Development,
Understandably, much scholarship
has focused on what happens to poor people…Relatively
less attention has been given to poor neighborhoods per
Only one study, published 25 years ago, has investigated
how different types of poor neighborhoods change their poverty
rates over time and whether any distinct socioeconomic or
demographic predictors of such dynamics emerge.”
– Urban Affairs Review,
November 2003, p. 221.
1. Summary of Proposed Research
The Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto and St. Christopher House, a large multi-service agency in Toronto, propose a series of applied policy-relevant research projects using as a case study seven adjacent inner-city Toronto neighbourhoods to answer the following questions:
- Can we preserve existing lower-income and socially and ethnically mixed, affordable neighbourhoods in the face of forces that are raising costs (particularly housing costs) and displacing or excluding certain people, businesses, and community services?
- How can people in urban neighbourhoods successfully shape the development of their environment to create a community that is socially cohesive and inclusive?
- What can we learn from recent and emerging community practice about effective action against negative forces and support for positive forces to ensure better outcomes?
The purpose of this research is to better understand the way in which both global and local forces affect urban neighbourhoods and to develop models that promote community engagement and help low-income communities influence public policy.
Although considerable research has been done on globalization, its causes and consequences, this thinking has not been connected to the forces and outcomes experienced in neighbourhoods and urban districts. There is also a great deal of research on neighbourhood gentrification and displacement, but very little that is policy- and program-relevant and action-oriented.
There is a need to revitalize the academic debates and, at the same time, provide policy makers and community activists with relevant and usable information, analysis, and policy options. We would also like to build further capacity in the community and among university students and academics, through collaborative, practice-oriented research. Research that is participatory and “bottom-up” from the start will produce a range of findings that contribute to knowledge and to practice at all levels.
Our research involves a case study of a well-established, mainly residential area just west of downtown Toronto, consisting of the following seven “neighbourhoods”: Dufferin Grove, Little Portugal, Niagara, Palmerston, Roncesvalles, South Parkdale, and Trinity-Bellwoods. The area has a population of 107,000 (slightly larger than Guelph, Ontario) and a median household income about 13% lower than the city average (2001 census). It is an immigrant settlement area with significant ethno-cultural diversity.
St. Christopher House (SCH) is a multi-service agency working out of six sites in west-end Toronto. For 91 years it has provided services to people of all ages and cultures. It has a budget of $7 million and is funded by the United Way as well as all levels of government and several private foundations. SCH is run by 80 full-time staff, 120 part-time staff, and about 800 volunteers, overseen by a board of volunteers. About 10,000 individuals and families are served each year. SCH has an established track record as an effective partner in community initiatives and coalitions, with excellent connections to all stakeholders in the community, as well as local politicians and local businesses. SCH is the lead community partner.
The Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS), established in 1964, promotes and disseminates multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on urban issues. Its research associates include professors and graduate students from a dozen different disciplines and professionals from a variety of organizations. The Centre’s Community / University Research Partnership (CURP) unit promotes the exchange of knowledge between the university and community agencies and associations. As the lead academic partner CUCS has brought together the strongest possible multi-disciplinary team of researchers, from within the UofT, from elsewhere in Canada (Professors Rose, INRS, Montreal and Ley, UBC), and a formal linkage has been established with key researchers and their institutions in the UK, US and NZ/Australia.
2. Purpose of the Research
Global and local (“glocal”) forces are dramatically changing older inner-city neighbourhoods, affecting residents, businesses, employers, and community services. In Canada’s larger cities these changes are taking place within the context of displacement, income polarization, and destitution, including homelessness. These are neighbourhood- and city-destroying dynamics. But must they be so? New investment and economic change in neighbourhoods should be harnessed for the benefit of the community, the city, and the nation. Although these dynamics are not new, many aspects are new. Globalized economic, social, and cultural forces are creating pressures at the neighbourhood level, as engaged citizens and their governments seek to control the impacts and outcomes. Yet the local impacts are not well understood. Without an improved understanding of these forces, how can we “encourage and guide local development” and develop the capacity for “participatory urban management processes,” as the UN Habitat Agenda recommends?
Despite public discussion of the need for an “improved urban agenda” in Canada (Prime Minister’s Caucus Task Force on Urban Issues, 2002; Seidle, 2002), the particulars of that agenda are vague. What role should urban neighbourhoods, particularly lower-income and redeveloping neighbourhoods, play in the emerging urban agenda? What can and should be done about dynamics that produce displacement and social exclusion? What are appropriate and feasible responses to pressures on lower-income neighbourhoods? Research grounded in the lived experience of households and organizations (formal and informal) in neighbourhoods undergoing dramatic change can provide the basis for positive action toward improved or new policies and programs.
Although Canada’s prosperity has benefited most households, a significant minority are worse off than before. Many urban households are also at risk of physical displacement. These households tend to be in older inner-city neighbourhoods. Most are life-long renters at a time of widespread failure to produce new rental housing. The stock of rental housing is aging, and tenants are being displaced as a result of demolition, gentrification (renovation and higher rents), and conversions to condominium ownership. Meanwhile, homeowners in these neighbourhoods are aging and asset-rich (the house) but cash-poor. High maintenance costs, utility bills, and property taxes (based on the high land values) eventually drive them out.
Although considerable research has been done on globalization, this work has not been connected to the forces and outcomes experienced in neighbourhoods and urban districts. There is no research to guide policy actors and community residents in determining what is similar to the past (e.g., gentrification and displacement) and what is different. One of the recognized failures of the vast and often insightful literature on gentrification, displacement, and social exclusion is its lack of policy and program relevance.
This research starts at the neighbourhood level, with the lived experience of lower-income people in neighbourhoods in transition. It starts with the full range of interests of businesses, social agencies, and local associations. The focus is on the way in which macro socio-economic and political environments affect people’s lives and the neighbourhoods they live in. Practitioners – from those who shape policy, to service providers, to political activists – require a better understanding of these forces in order to define appropriate courses of action, such as specific policies and programs or political action by community leaders.
3. The Study Area
Our proposed research involves a study of an older, culturally diverse, mainly residential area just west of downtown Toronto. The study area has seven neighbourhoods: Dufferin Grove, Little Portugal, Niagara, Palmerston, Roncesvalles, South Parkdale, and Trinity-Bellwoods. If this area were a municipality, it would be the 38th largest city in Canada, slightly larger than Guelph, Barrie, Saanich, Gatineau, or St. John’s.
The area has the following characteristics: a population of 107,000; a low-income population of 28,500 people (27%, which is 4% more than the city average); a disproportionate share of single-parent families and episodically homeless people; a population density about twice the city average; and a median household income about 13% lower than the city average (2001 Census). Table 1 provides further information on the study area.
This is a major immigrant settlement area, with a high percentage of visible minorities. The largest groups are Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Polish, Greek, East Indian, Vietnamese, Ukrainian and Filipino. The area has a significant population of people with psychiatric problems living in lower-cost rooming and boarding houses. There is also a significant homeless population living in parks and alleys. The displacement of low-income households from this area with its well-developed community services to more distant neighbourhoods that have fewer services is a major social policy and service planning issue.
The area is under redevelopment and gentrification pressures because it is about 15 minutes from downtown in a traffic-clogged city; its mature neighbourhoods have retained much of their social and economic vitality; it has excellent access to transit; it is close to the waterfront; and it has attractive streetscapes and housing stock. Several formerly industrial zones in and near the area, including the former Massey lands and in the Parkdale Liberty area, are being redeveloped, and now provide new ownership housing that is not affordable for most local residents. A $400-million public-private partnership proposes to consolidate facilities at the Queen Street site of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in the centre of the area.
4. Research Questions
Does gentrification and investment in older neighbourhoods necessarily mean the displacement of existing social networks, community institutions, family businesses and, eventually, most lower-income households? Can people, groups, organizations work together to achieve different outcomes? How?
Question 1 involves a multi-level analysis of factors that lead to displacement and exclusion. Can we preserve existing lower-income and socially mixed, affordable neighbourhoods in the face of forces that are raising costs (particularly housing costs) and producing displacement and exclusion (of certain people, businesses, and community services)?
- What forces are at work in the neighbourhood? What are the trends? How do these forces differ compared to those of recent decades? How do they mutually interact to create unanticipated consequences?
- What forces and factors are fuelling social exclusion, civic disengagement and alienation, and weakening social cohesion at the neighbourhood and local/municipal level? What is the link between gentrification and these negative outcomes?
- We also want to distinguish between intrinsic (inside the household) and extrinsic (outside the household) outcomes.
- What forces affect the quality of people’s lives, such as work/life balance, labour attachment, etc.?
- What forces affect the quality of life in the neighbourhood, such as market forces, government policy (housing, income security, immigration, urban development) and demographic change?
Question 2 focuses on developing and testing different models for effectively influencing change. How can people in urban neighbourhoods successfully shape the development of their environment to create a community that is socially cohesive and inclusive?
- Are there different civic engagement models for renters, homeowners, homeless people, small business owners, and larger businesses and employers present in the neighbourhoods?
- What is the best model for interacting with all three levels of government to influence policy decisions?
Question 3 focuses on effective community engagement practice.
What can we learn from recent and emerging community practice about effective action against negative forces and support for positive forces to ensure better outcomes?
- How can we build a body of community practice evidence to help community development, given the forces at work? How effective have recent attempts to effect change been, and what can we learn from them in developing new models?
- What changes have recently come about and why (where are the case studies of successes)? To what extent do these changes affect the larger forces? Are people becoming more engaged? How effective over time are these responses? What initiatives have failed to achieve intended or positive outcomes and why (where are the case studies of failures)?
The above questions have emerged from a consultation process with our community partners. They are plain English versions of questions that are high on the research agenda of many social scientists. We note, for example, that in November 2003, the two leading journals in this area published special theme issues: Housing Studies, on “Life in Poverty Neighbourhoods” and Urban Studies, on “Misunderstood Saviour or Vengeful Wrecker? The Many Meanings and Problems of Gentrification.”
5. Research Activities
The research questions outlined above can be answered only by designing an integrated set of mixed-method research projects, large and small, managed by research working groups. These will build upon one another and will be phased in and out at different points. Where existing data sets are available and relevant, extensive secondary analysis will be carried out. Much of the research effort will involve original data collection: interviews, focus groups, and surveys of important features of the neighbourhoods. The data collection and analysis provide the basis for understanding the dynamics affecting the neighbourhood. This process informs and provides guidance to community action by diverse stakeholders. At the same time, community involvement in the research provides direction and relevancy for the research.
Four key research theme areas . We propose one overarching research project examining local trends (e.g., demographic composition, type and size of households, and socio-economic status of the residents) and relevant policies and programs that affect these trends. This project will begin immediately and a monitoring and updating process will continue to the end of the project (the 2006 Census data will be available by then). The analysis of existing databases will be supplemented with original data collection as needed. The three areas that will be thoroughly researched are: housing, community infrastructure (social and physical), and life transitions and aging. All four projects focus on the ethno-cultural diversity within the study area.
Two tasks for all research initiatives . All four research projects and their sub-projects must complete two tasks. The first is to contribute to our understanding of neighbourhood change by documenting, analyzing, monitoring, and forecasting trends. The second is to influence neighbourhood change by informing, educating, and mobilizing stakeholders. University-based researchers and community-based researchers and partner agencies will work together within a participatory research model. The two tasks are not necessarily sequential. Each has feedback loops that allow for questions and improvements. All research initiatives will also provide the diverse group of stakeholders with examples from other jurisdictions of successful strategies to influence neighbourhood change. These options may stimulate the development of new strategies as well.
Research as a community development, participatory process.
Specific decisions about what to research within the four key areas will be carried out through a participatory process. The Steering Committee, starting with the community partners at an inception workshop, will refine the research tasks outlined below (which were derived through a consultative process carried out over the past three months). The Research Advisory Committee (which reports to the Steering Committee) will review and approve the research teams for each of the specific research tasks. The teams will then undertake a participatory research process to refine the nature and scope of the task; each will have its own management committee drawn from the community and the academics involved. The overall Steering Committee for the CURA will keep others in the community informed about the progress and findings of the research teams and allow for regular feedback from community stakeholders (active outreach, not just passing on information) to ensure important issues are being addressed. This iterative process will help ensure the policy relevance of the research and lay the basis for sustained follow-up by community stakeholders. CUCS maintains a list of resources on participatory action research processes:
Research Theme 1
Neighbourhood Issues and Trends Working Group
To understand how and why neighbourhoods evolve, we need to examine local trends (e.g., demographic composition, the type and size of households, and the socio-economic status of the residents) and the policies that affect these trends. First, we will document long-term neighbourhood change (using, for example, censuses from 1971 to 2001, as well as reports on land use planning, health, immigration, and community services) to understand why these neighbourhoods have the characteristics they do and how they have evolved, and to identify the stress points of neighbourhood change. We will examine, as appropriate, the dynamic relationship between neighbourhoods and the larger city and region. This data will be assembled into templates of neighbourhood character at each census date, and subjected to statistical analyses to determine which variables best identify the critical dimensions of neighbourhood change. The time series data in phase two will be subjected to analysis to decompose changes in neighbourhood attributes into their structural (i.e., city-wide) and local (i.e., neighbourhood) components. The results of phases one and two will be turned into a set of community-driven indicators of change through community meetings, focus groups, and interviewing. What do residents feel are the most important elements that should be monitored? What issues concern them most? Which common features can be generalized, to the neighbourhoods themselves and to the city beyond? This work will be put in the context of regional and national trends.
Research Theme 2
Housing Issues and Trends Working Group
Building on the data collected by the neighbourhood trends working group, a housing working group will collect and analyze data on housing stock change in the neighbourhood since 1971. What changes are taking place in the composition of the housing stock in terms of tenure (renting/owning); real estate prices and affordability; type of structure; amount of and need for housing rehabilitation; amount of new construction; trends in rent levels; amount of and addition to the social housing stock; types of social housing; residential densities; conversion and deconversion of buildings; safety of local housing stock, etc. In addition, “houselessness” in the study area will be examined. Who is houseless and why; who is at risk of becoming unhoused and why; and what, if any, are the local causes of homelessness? How are homeless people perceived, treated, or assisted locally? The researchers will work to identify strategies to compete with or intervene in market forces; develop ways to support a range of housing options for diverse households; increase local understanding of homelessness; develop a broad-based community forum to address local causes and effects of homelessness as well as more systemic causes. These issues will be set in the context of current public debate over Canada’s housing policy.
Research Theme 3
Research Theme 4
Social and Physical Community
Infrastructure Working Group
One essential component of urban infrastructure is often neglected in the policy debate over a new urban agenda for Canada’s cities: the social and community infrastructure of cities, such as public health, recreation, children’s services, libraries, and the large network of City-funded non-profit agencies that provide community services. The research will collect and analyze data on trends in the provision, quality, and relevance of social and community infrastructure, with a focus on the needs of lower-income households. This infrastructure includes: community child care and family resource programs that offer learning opportunities for children and support for working parents; language training and settlement programs to help newcomers; recreation for youth; local health units providing instruction and guidance for new mothers; and community programs to reduce social isolation and provide health, education, and social supports to individuals and families. Some of the specific issues we will examine are: How are existing community services responding to the changes in the neighbourhoods (e.g., discontinued or new programming; funding changes; relocation of services; changed mandates of service organizations). Where and how does the community gather? Who is using existing facilities and who is not? We will also work with funders and governments to increase their awareness of the neighbourhood changes and to address new or changing priorities and with facility operators to ensure they are aware of and responding to local changes appropriately.
Life Transitions and Aging Working Group
Neighbourhoods matter more to some socio-economic status groups and in some ethno-cultural settings than others. Neighbourhoods provide informal resources and are the sites of social interaction and domestic routines. They are places to relax and they provide familiar landmarks and a sense of place (a territorial identity). Neighbourhoods do these things in different ways for different socio-economic and ethno-cultural groups. In particular, we will look at families with children and seniors. Children: What is the relationship between changing downtown neighbourhoods and families with children (e.g., school enrolment trends and closures; social and recreational infrastructure for preschoolers, school-aged children and their parents. Seniors: What is the relationship between changing downtown neighbourhoods and seniors (e.g., living arrangements with extended families, alone, or in congregate living arrangements; housing options and related costs; extent of displacement due to frailty/lack of local caregiving/costs. The researchers will investigate strategies to address the quantity and quality of supports for families with children; identify forums for bringing community members and institutions (e.g. school boards) together for planning and problem-solving; and develop strategies to address the quantity and quality of supports for seniors and their caregivers.
6. Description of the Team: The Two Lead Partners
The principal partners are St. Christopher House (SCH), a long-established multi-service agency with services and sites serving all the case study neighbourhoods, and the Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS), a multidisciplinary research centre. SCH and CUCS began working together two years ago, when CUCS established its Community / University Research Partnerships Unit. Students from the urban planning program and the social work program have been involved in a community analysis project for SCH, using 2001 Census data. Their reports and maps are on our CURA website:
St. Christopher House
St. Christopher House (SCH) is a respected multi-service agency working out of six sites across the study area (and only in the study area). Since 1912, St. Christopher House has provided services to people of all ages and cultures. Despite its name, SCH is a secular, not a religious, organization. It has a budget of $7 million and is funded by the United Way as well as all levels of government and several foundations. There are 80 full-time staff and 120 part-time staff, many of whom live in the area, as well as about 800 volunteers. About 10,000 individuals and families are served each year. St. Christopher House is governed by a volunteer board, many of whom live in the community and are well-versed in community issues. SCH has established a track record as an effective partner in community initiatives and coalitions, with connections to diverse stakeholders in the community, including local politicians and businesspeople, as well as senior officials in governments and leaders in the business and financial sector.
Since its inception as a settlement house, SCH has integrated community development, public policy advocacy, and direct service delivery. An example is a workshop on elder abuse with Portuguese-speaking seniors, which evolved into a leadership training program so that these seniors could act as advocates and supports within their community for others experiencing elder abuse. This work then evolved into a roving troupe of Portuguese and Vietnamese seniors who deliver mimed public education messages about elder abuse and other social issues to diverse audiences all over the GTA. This Health Action Theatre by Seniors (HATS) model incorporates problem-solving and role-playing with audience members, overcoming language differences and building interest in the issue. SCH has identified action theatre as an appropriate model for disseminating the CURA research and getting community feedback.
SCH’s Community Response and Advocacy Unit coordinates its community development and policy advocacy work. Its “Community Undertaking Social Policy” (CUSP) project brings a policy expert into St. Christopher House for several months to work with diverse community members and frontline staff as well as with an advisory board of leaders from the financial services sector. The focus of the first two policy experts has been on income-related policies. The dialogue between the experts and people with “lived experience” has resulted in the experts gaining better awareness of the diversity of marginalized people and of the ineffectiveness of many policies targeted at low-income people. At the same time, community members and frontline staff have learned about tradeoffs in policy development. This is another relevant model of community involvement that SCH will bring to this CURA project.
The Centre for Urban and Community Studies
CUCS, established in 1964, promotes and disseminates multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on urban issues. It is a research unit of the School of Graduate Studies. Its research associates come from a dozen different disciplines and professions.
The Centre’s Community / University Research Partnership unit (CURP) promotes the exchange of knowledge between the university and community agencies and associations. “Community” refers to civil society organizations such as non-profit groups, social agencies, community organizations, or coalitions. CURP represents the U of T’s contribution to applied scholarship on the practical problems and policy issues associated with urban living, particularly poverty, housing, homelessness, social welfare, and social justice issues at the local level. CURP’s overall goals are: (1) to help define socially important and policy-relevant research agendas; (2) to link researchers and identified research needs; (3) to seek research funding sources that include, but also go beyond, traditional academic sources; and (4) to develop new ways to communicate and disseminate research findings.
The Centre is also establishing a graduate-level Collaborative Program in Community Development that will accept its first students in fall 2004. It has been developed by a group of professors who specialize in community development issues and participatory action research from across the University: Social Work, Community Health, Adult Education and Community Development, Urban Planning and Geography. It is anticipated that the professors and graduate students in the Collaborative Program in Community Development will be associated with this CURA. www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/communitydevelopment.html
SSHRC is an independent federal government agency that funds university-based research and graduate training through national peer-review competitions. SSHRC also partners with public and private sector organizations to focus research and aid the development of better policies and practices in key areas of Canada's social, cultural and economic life.
A special thanks to Jeff Cantos, Abigail Moriah, Philippa Campsie and Grace Ramirez for the assistance they provided to the research team in the preparation of the proposal during 2004.