Gordon Neighbourhood House, located in the heart of Vancouver’s West End, is currently going through a period of renewal. From technological infrastructure to physical space, this process will assist in helping Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) continue to thrive in the West End community. The organization’s new Executive Director, Paul Michael Taylor, is currently laying the foundation for this change. Sitting down with Paul, it immediately becomes apparent that Paul’s ideas, energy and enthusiasm are a great fit for GNH.
Having recently come to Gordon Neighbourhood House after having been at the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, where he held the same position of Executive Director, Paul sees great opportunity for Gordon Neighbourhood to grow alongside the community. “Many great relationships are built here. One of our volunteers in the thrift store is sitting in on the English Language course offered upstairs. I think that’s the real magic of a neighbourhood house, when you see someone who sees this space, this community, as their home and a place in which they belong. I want our neighbours to feel the very same way, and enjoy all that their Neighbourhood House has to offer”.
Paul has been active in right to food and social justice organizations for most of his life. Born and raised in Toronto, he moved to Vancouver in 2011, Paul’s passions can be traced back to his early childhood. “I grew up as a poor, hungry kid in Downtown Toronto. I was raised by a single-mother, and for portions of my childhood we had no electricity, heat or hot water. I felt the shame that is ubiquitous for those with fewer materials, until I realized that our poverty was based on systemic issues that I could work to help challenge. I’ve done so for most of my life since then.”
Paul’s childhood would be the driving force behind his involvement in youth shelters, neighbourhood houses and as a champion of the Right to Food. In Toronto, Paul served as the executive director of Second Base Youth Shelter, a homeless youth shelter, where over 700 homeless youth would visit yearly. During his time there, Paul was influential in the Right to Milk program and its proliferation throughout Toronto at other youth shelters. He also worked to establish Second Helping Youth Catering social enterprise, an on-site health clinic and the creation of an art studio at the shelter.
While working at the DTES neighbourhood house, Paul walked by GNH one evening and immediately became interested in the area. Upon learning more about the West End, Paul was fascinated by the range of socioeconomic experiences in the neighbourhood. Inspired by the makeup of the neighbourhood, and lack of community space, Paul wanted to help amplify a community feeling in the West End. “Gordon Neighbourhood House presents a unique opportunity to help foster a centre where neighbours can come together. A space where any resident can drop in to socialize and familiarize themselves with their neighbours.”
Although Paul’s enthusiasm for his ideas isn’t easily contained, he is the first to acknowledge the great work done by his predecessor John Lucas. “ A wonderful fellow, John Lucas, who was the Executive Director for seventeen years. He is a wonderful and special human being who unfortunately couldn’t continue. It is a real honour, and challenge, to try and fill his shoes and move the organization forward.”
A loud voice in any neighbourhood and organization he has worked within, Paul works tirelessly to ameliorate his communities, his diligence only matched by his kindness and warm-hearted nature.
When asked what his ultimate goal is with Gordon Neighbourhood House, Paul replies with his broad smile, “Bring people together.”
-Written by Ashkon Nowtash