When we think about what it means to be a community advocate, we normally envision a seasoned politician or high-profile figure. This image represents an ingrained stereotype that prevents us from acknowledging the hard work and commitments of “regular people” in our neighbourhoods. For the residents of Ardglen and Orenda, there is no need to look further than the staff and volunteers of The Journey Neighbourhood Centre as perfect examples. Over the last five years, this community centre has played a vital role in addressing challenges related to poverty in Brampton, issues that have become prevalent in our city.
Manager of the Journey, Kevin Birmingham, Program Coordinator, Kyrel Thompson and staff have recently wrapped up their annual summer camp. The program, which caters to children between the ages of four and twelve, is subsidized, providing an affordable way for parents to get their children involved in all-day summer programming.
The Journey continues to see high demand for the program, with many children ending up on lengthy wait lists each year. At the moment, the Journey lacks the resources needed to accommodate more children due to limited space and funding. Nonetheless, students have had an exciting summer filled with fun activities and weekly field trips. The summer camp has also employed eight youth who are working under the Canada Summer Jobs and the Region of Peel Summer Job Challenge programs, the latter of which aims to provide assistance to youth facing socio-economic barriers.
The Journey has numerous programs for all ages, including Early Years with Bridgeway Family Centre, Artistic Expression, Visions of Science, After School Club, 55+ Club and many more.
The Journey Neighbourhood Centre does what it can to be of service to the Ardglen and Orenda residents. Nevertheless, this community has had its share of challenges. In July 2019, 62 families were given eviction notices from Starlight Investments, the real estate corporation which owns the Ardglen townhouse complex. These evictions are a result of an order issued by the Brampton Fire Department in response to the installation of peaked roofs, which were an attempt to deal with old flat leaking roofs. These roofs were installed without firebreaks and a permit. This contributed to the spreading of the 2014 fire that left eighteen families displaced and a ten-year-old child dead. Starlight has ordered families to evacuate their units by October 31st. To this day, the community has not seen the official order, nor are they aware of when it was issued.
This comes at a time when families are already struggling to pay rent. According to Kevin, a 2-3-bedroom townhouse in the area costs between $1100 to $1500 per month, while new tenants pay significantly more.
Other concerns include children having to switch schools abruptly, lack of public and affordable housing in Peel (with a vacancy rate of 1%), and shelters that cannot accommodate these families due to overcrowding. Staff at the Journey have been working tirelessly to collaborate with Region of Peel Housing Support to find affordable temporary and permanent housing for families; the Canadian Mental Health Association to provide families with counselling during this stressful time; and have coordinated with Starlight’s management team, who have agreed to pay for U-Haul services to help with moving expenses, on a case-by-case basis.
The Journey hopes to see Starlight make additional and necessary changes to ease the transition for their tenants.
Please visit http://www.thejourneyneighbourhoodcentre.ca to learn about how you can support the Journey and its community programs this summer, and to find more information on the Ardglen evictions.
Editor: Farrah Kudus