Chalkfarm Community Centre

Organization Sponsor: Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services

Organization Partner: Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation (formerly Toronto Parks and Recreation)

URLs: 

Program Description

One of the outcomes of Toronto's amalgamation process was the recognition that certain high-risk areas and neighbourhoods required more recreational programming geared to community needs. Chalkfarm was one such community - a low income area that has traditionally had high levels of crime and violence. Located in an apartment complex, the Chalkfarm Community Centre is now the focal point of the entire community.

Despite limited space the center offers a wide range of programs and activities (both general and specialized) for age groups ranging from pre-school to adults and seniors. Much of the programming is for children and youth aged 5-16. All programs and activities are free of charge to anyone in the community and to occasional participants from other communities.

For more information, please contact:

Toronto Parks and Recreation Department
Toronto, ON, Canada
Phone: 416-395-7802
Fax: 416-392-1551
Email: [email protected]

Program Approximate Cost: 

free

Funding Sources: 

The city of Toronto provides budgets for all programs, supplies and equipment.

Strategies For Sustainability: 

One can hardly live in the community without knowing that the Centre exists. The Centre's brochure (distributed to all homes in the community), the social service agency, local schools and other community members all play key roles in helping to spread the word.

Impact Of Program: 

The initiative has been highly successful.
The Center was designated priority center in 1990/91.
Programs and activities are now free of charge to anyone in the community.
Programming has been expanded from 30 to 90 hours per week.
The perception of the community has been changed from "really bad area" to one in which people have a sense of pride and want to work at the Center.
Prostitution and drug activity in and around the Centre is now gone, and crime and violence in the neighbourhood has decreased.
Participation rates for the Centre's programs have risen so much that there are now waiting lists for most programs.

Evaluation Tools: 

The Centre conducts regular evaluations to help gauge the success of it programs. Parent complete once-page evaluations forms, staff complete comprehensive ten page forms.
Staff meet to discuss problems in detail.

Key Elements Towards Success: 

No costs passed on to participants.
No transportation barriers or costs because the majority of participants are within easy walking distance of the Centre.
Centre is the focal point of the community. The people in the community have a sense of ownership. Parents, youth and staff have all helped to develop the programs.
All staff undergoes training where it is stressed that they will be playing a key role in the lives of children in the community.
The Centre's staff is key to success. They work hard to connect members to their community. They are culturally diverse and represent their community. Many live in the area, are involved in the community and understand it's needs.
Building management is supportive, and the Centre is negotiating a 10-year lease.

Challenges To Meet Them: 

Although about 95% of the Centre's participants live in low-income houses in the immediate area, some people from other communities are taking advantage of the open door policy of free programs. One of the ways the Center addresses this challenge is by not advertising in the Toronto Fun Magazine. Instead, they create a separate brochure and distribute it to all homes in the community.

The area is culturally diverse and meeting all its needs can be difficult. Part of the challenge is the limited space available in the building itself - it is difficult to create opportunities for all the community's cultures to participate fully without cutting valuable programs. Centre staff is working to find solutions to this problem. It is hoped that a mew larger building will be constructed in the years to come.

It is also a challenge to ensure that the entire community understands that the Centre is available to everyone, not just those living in the apartment complex. Centre staff working with key groups, partners and individuals to spread the word that the center is for all members of the community.

As in many high-need communities, occasionally children or youth "get away". Everything possible is being done to minimize the number of children and youth who fall through the cracks and to bring them back into the fold. Many youth are now doing community service hours at the Centre.

Length and Stage of Project: 

1990 to present

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