Gordon Neighbourhood House: What is a Neighbourhood House, and What Does It Do?
- Short intro to GNH
Found tucked away in pockets of lively communities, neighbourhood houses are hidden gems enchanted with an ambience of hospitality and zest. Most might not know about neighbourhood houses. Indeed, they might not know their content and purpose. There’s a few in the Lower Mainland including South Vancouver, located on Victoria Drive; Mount Pleasant located on East Broadway; Kitsilano, on West 7th Avenue, and finally, Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), which can be found on Broughton Street. Many are associated with the Association of Neighbourhood Houses in British Columbia (ANHBC). We want to explore some of the aspects of a neighbourhood house through a case study in GNH. But what is a neighbourhood house? What is its purpose, and how can one get involved?
The ANHBC helps over 100,000 British Columbians with over 300 programs. These include child care and other family resources, support for seniors and youth, and even food programs. For examples, these can mean camping and community dinners. The ANHBC remains an overarching association for seven neighbourhood houses. Some of these have been around for a long time. For example, and to the case study, GNH has been around since 1942 in Vancouver’s West End.
The organization aims to facilitate community engagement and interaction. This is done through various programs for the development of the community by the community. Now, the key phrase “neighbourhood house” has more clarity. A neighbourhood house is part of the community and a collective effort for public engagement. This will include work with sister associations through bottom-up, or grassroots, organizing for diverse engagement to reflect the West End community.
Throughout the Lower Mainland, neighbourhood houses have become grassroots organizations that are constructed and developed, by, and for, the people of the local community. As with most bottom-up organizing, GNH is one of them.
- Victoria’s and Scott’s Experiences
We have been to Gordon Neighbourhood House before, in different events. Scott attended in October for a Young Ideas meeting, which is, as per the title, an event for the organization’s youth wing. Victoria could make it for part of a community dinner, which was connected to the Vancouver Food Conversations event; part of GNH’s annual West End Food Festival. We found the experiences pleasant and informative, and the membership enthusiastic, warm, and professional. Our hope is that individuals will consider these hidden community resources right in their proverbial Lower Mainland backyard. In fact, they have numerous ongoing, upcoming, and annual events.
- How to Get Involved/Upcoming Events
The GNH hosts a multitude of events and programs at its venue located on 1019 Broughton Street. Programs are available for citizens of all ages and backgrounds. Families and youth are supported through experiential learning that inspires not only intellectual, but emotional discovery as well. A Seniors’ Advisory Committee consisting of GNH members advises the GNH on improving the issues faced by seniors in the community and city. The GNH also hosts a Seniors’ Lounge every week from Monday to Wednesday, which is open for all West End elders to meet with old and new faces. Additionally, Seniors’ Out-Trips are organized to provide West End’s seniors with the opportunity to take part in the outdoors and diverse cultures in the Greater Vancouver Region, while socializing with other elders.
In GNH’s Young Ideas (YI) initiative, GNH acknowledges that a community is largely affected when its members experience loneliness or social isolation. With 48% of West End’s demographic being between the ages of 20 and 39, 41% of which finding it difficult to make friends, the YI organizes events, activities, and workshops to create opportunities for those between 20 and 39 to engage and forge relationships between West End’s community members. In addition to these programs, GNH also has a “Neighbourhood Small Grants” program and organizes “The Clean Team” in partnership with the West End Business Improvement Association to audit litter and work towards a cleaner neighbourhood.
There are two annual events at GNH: The West End Food Festival and the Vancouver Food Summit. The West End Food Festival is a multi-day event focusing on bringing public attention to various topics of concern in our food system, and using food to bring together community members to celebrate the diversity of food and cultures in the West End community.
The Vancouver Food Summit was an incredible and rare opportunity for individuals, community food practitioners, farmers, community leaders, academics, funders and activists and stakeholders to spend a day sharing experience and expertise, challenging assumptions, having difficult conversations and exploring how to deepen our collective impact. The interest in food in our city has gained significant momentum, in fact this year Vancouver celebrates the third anniversary of the Vancouver Food Strategy.
A key aspect of this work must be focused on a critical analysis of who is typically left out of conversation around our food system and why? The Vancouver Food Summit allowed us to collectively push ourselves to think about what an inclusive food movement looks like. Attendees chose between eight different panels throughout the day, involving discussions on eight topics central to Vancouver’s food movement. Topics included: the advancement of indigenous food sovereignty, a critical look at food banks, the efficacy of food policy at challenging poverty, the question of whether local food is inherently more just, accessibility as more than a ramp, and whether food waste was an opportunity or a curse. Using food to animate important conversations, GNH is a central hub for these activities.
Volunteer postings for GNH can be found on GNH’s website, and include a variety of postings; from yoga instructors to herb garden volunteers, to outreach and awareness volunteers. Becoming a volunteer for the GNH can be a very enriching and fulfilling experience, as well as an effective way to engage with West End’s community.
You can become involved and donate to Gordon Neighbourhood House at their website. Note: there are restrictions on the kinds of material donations. http://gordonhouse.org/
By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger) & Victoria Teo