Spence Neighbourhood Association was incorporated in 1997 as a non-profit housing group formed by five volunteers who wanted to work together to improve the living conditions of the area. Those volunteers originally worked together to clean up one back lane, and then decided to renovate a house for a young family.
Next, they began to expand their activities and found funding through the Winnipeg Development Agreement for the Light Up Our Neighbourhood program, which provided dusk-to-dawn security lighting on houses in the area to improve safety. The Lighting project allowed volunteers to meet hundreds of residents in the area who received lights. This network allowed more ideas for projects to grow, more volunteers to help, and more energy to tackle further issues.
The organization continued to grow and take on more projects, and eventually was able to hire staff. In January 2000, the organization moved to Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre at 430 Langside Street, and activities continued to grow in the new community space. With this growth the organization made the shift to a representative community development group and developed a new constitution and elected a board from the neighbourhood.
Building Belonging started off as a pilot program which ran three months for 6-12 year old children and then 3 months for 13-18 year old children and youth. Originally it was run in the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre but separate from City of Winnipeg programming. In 2005 the program began to run every day and added a snack program at the start. From there Building Belonging merged with the City of Winnipeg Free Play program. In 2007, a restorative justice framework was built into the program.
Newcomer Youth/Youth Drop In started developing based on the success of Building Belonging. SNA approached the Director of Immigration – Province of Manitoba and received funding for 1 staff. The Executive Director worked both Building Belonging and Newcomer Youth/Youth Drop In to get them started and then succeeded in gaining a bigger grant from provincial immigration. This later was transferred to federal immigration funding – IRCC. The program has always had a newcomer focus, a place to integrate newcomers into the community.
Community Sports Program started as an extension of the Newcomer Youth/Youth Drop In programs. At first the program ran two teams in 2008 and then build up to 11 teams. The program expanded into a community sport position at the University of Winnipeg in 2013 and moved into Sport Exploration.
First Jobs 4 Youth started as a university project. Eventually it grew into a stand-alone program. It has always been based in SNA’s Community Economic Development programs even though it was always youth focused. The program developed and added the Youth Crew. After a few years the program moved to West End Commons to allow the program access to a commercial kitchen.
Looking for a way to address the fact that there was no 24 hour safe place for youth in the area, SNA started holding community meetings and developed a plan. There were over 600 surveys conducted with community members. The plan was launched in June 2015 and a Go Fund Me was run in November. The program opened June 2016.
Housing has been at the core of the work at SNA since its inception in 1997 when the first community members started organizing around housing issues. Thirty-three homes were built in the community. SNA stopped building once lots became too costly. Since then a variety of housing related supports have been developed for the community in terms of tenant-landlord relationships and addressing EIA advocacy, RTB rules and regulations, home improvement grants, mediation, safety, promoting new housing developments in the neighbourhood, employment programs, volunteer programs, rooming houses, bed bug remediation, health, connecting community to resources to name a few.
This program started as part of Community Safety and then spun off into its own program. Originally it was just focused around installing deadbolts and peep holes and making sure renters felt safe in their apartments. This program has grown to add education, training and landlord-tenant mediation.
This is the second program of SNA after Housing and has had many different approaches. SNA developed its first safety plan and started doing Safety Audits, March for Peace and taking a proactive approach to safety. In 2016, Community Connecting worked with the community to create a vision for a safe community, which culminated in the development of the Spence Community Safety Charter.
Environment and Open Spaces (EOS) has been running since 2003. The program started by just clearing vacant lots and establishing gardens and then secured long term leases on the land. In 2009, the program received 2 years of federal funding for the Greenhouse site project and had two staff dedicated just to that lot.
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