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Guided by Community, for the Community– How more organizations should consider this type of approach

October 19, 2020

Working directly with the community has shown to be effective, especially when it comes to knowing what resources are needed in Winnipeg’s North End.

 

The North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC) was developed in 1998 after a group of organizations and citizens in Winnipeg’s North End community, were concerned about negative safety trends that were unfolding.

 

With a vision of being successful in community economic development and community renewal, NECRC determined it would have to take on a real holistic approach in regard to how it operated. This meant bringing together a diverse group of people and stakeholders to ensure community perspectives and needs would always be at the forefront and drive local renewal efforts.

 

Over twenty years later, this method is still used by NECRC today.

 

Dawn Sands, executive director of NECRC, says this way of working helps create a continuous feedback loop.

 

“We’re constantly checking in and working with all our stakeholders to make sure the programs and services being delivered are still needed and/or to determine if adjustments should be made,” says Sands.

 

NECRC also incorporates a multi-sectoral approach by having sector representation on its board, as opposed to individual representation. As a result, it has a combination of resident associations, education, community-based organizations, labor organizations, spiritual and indigenous businesses, just to name a few.

 

Ongoing Issue Facing the Community

 

Although adequate housing is considered a basic human right, it is a recurring concern expressed by the North End community. Specifically, most of NECRC’s challenges are related to community members having access to it and it meeting everyone’s needs.

 

“We have seen some improvement over the years, but there’s still a long way to go,” says Sands. “We still need more housing and there’s a lot that needs to be repaired.”

 

To help address and mitigate some of these issues, NECRC has developed several programs. A few of them are:

 

Exterior Home Improvement Grants

If you’re a low income homeowner or a landlord, you could receive a grant from NECRC to do some basic safety upgrades to the home.

Tenant Landlord Cooperation

This is a direct advocacy program that provides mediation support and improves relationships between landlords and tenants. It helps people stay in their homes, have secure housing and builds better relationships. NECRC has seen this program become one of the key homelessness prevention strategies.

Example: If a landlord isn’t doing their repairs, NECRC can help the tenant advocate for this to get done and/or if a landlord is struggling to get repairs done, NECRC can help find the appropriate resources to get the task complete.

Tenant & Landlord Education

Provides training and teaches people how to be good landlords and tenants by giving them the tools and resources they need to do those things properly.

 

To view the full list of housing services and supports, click here.

 

Impacts of COVID-19

 

NECRC anticipates it will likely see an increase in eviction situations now that amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act in response to COVID-19, has ended.

 

“Our economy is still recovering and a lot of those who lost their jobs due to COVID are still unemployed,” says Sands. “This will cause a lot of people to become at risk of homelessness who never were before.”

 

When the pandemic began, NECRC kept all their programs and services running, but had to adjust and shift their focus to only dealing with what they determined were emergency situations. This was in part because of the uncertainty of the virus and the unknown as to how organizations were supposed to operate in a way that would keep both the community and staff safe and employed.

What’s Next for NECRC?

 

Indigenous Housing Initiative

This year, NECRC, along with BUILD INC. and Purpose Construction had begun working on an Indigenous Housing initiative that would explore what it means and might look like to have an Indigenous-led housing model.

 

The initiative’s goal is to establish an Indigenous-led property management company that would focus on the development, ownership and management of affordable housing units, primarily in the North End community. All of the property maintenance would be done by Work Integrated Social Enterprises who provide training and employment opportunities for those experiencing barriers to employment.

 

“We want to look beyond ensuring that people’s taps work and their front step is shoveled,” says Sands. “We’re focused on incorporating a human-centred approach to property management and intend to further build community, so that people feel like they can call it home.”

 

One-Stop-Shop

To better narrow in on what NECRC’s role and responsibility is in relation to community development, it recently drafted a strategic plan. One of the plan’s pillars identifies bringing all staff and programming under one roof as opposed to having various properties on Selkirk Ave. Over time, NECRC has noticed people may visit one location, seeking a specific support, but then realize they need another and feel they shouldn’t have to go down the street to access it. Additionally, the move would likely see NECRC acquire and renovate a property that fits the criteria for renewal, further adding to the property renewal projects that have been completed to date.

 

NECRC believes this change would allow it to serve people better, but due to the pandemic the progress on this has been paused temporarily.

 

To learn more about NECRC and the many services it provides, visit their website at www.necrc.org.