7 important things to know about Community Hubs in Ontario

By Suzanne Schwenger

I recently attended a forum on community hubs, organized by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and attended by a wide range of participants from health, housing, recreation, social services and education.

A community Hub can be a school, a neighbourhood centre or another public space that offers co-located or integrated services such as education, health care and social services. Each hub is as unique as the community it serves.

Community Hubs website

1. Community Hubs have been around for many years.

  • In some cases, service hubs such as the YMCA have been around for 160 years.  So what’s new in 2015?  

2. Surplus schools have created a new opportunity.

  • With declining enrollment, school boards are looking to sell off vacant space, sparking a conversation about the public interest in these properties.
  • The Ministry of Education is currently engaged in consultations about new regulations on surplus school property disposition.

3. Ontario has a Special Advisor on Community Hubs.

4. Our Premier has a strong commitment to a vibrant Community Hub Program.

5. Bringing services together is not easy.

  • Community hubs are complex.  Most of the existing hubs were achieved by local heroes against all odds. 
  • Barriers include a lack of time for planning, agency mandates with different priorities, uneven service boundaries and privacy issues. Some small non-profits may not be able to compete with developers to purchase properties.

6. We have learned about what works

  • Integrated planning is a non-linear process, which takes time and needs to focus on relationships and governance issues.
  • Successful hubs focus on clients first, and engage in collaboration for greater impact.

7. You can join the conversation

  • The Community Hub Secretariat is looking for feedback on its Report, including the Action Plan. When it comes to integrated local planning across jurisdictions, they want to know what’s working well and what can be improved.
  • Regional discussion forums are being held in Barrie, Kingston, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and London. Results of these conversations will be shared.
  • If you have some ideas to share, please send an e-mail to community.hubs@ontario.ca.

Resources

Examples of Community Hubs

Existing Hubs

  • Toronto Pan Am Games Sports Centre (TPASC) in Scarborough, is co-owned by the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto. It was created for the PanAm games and is now a strategic hub.
  • Langs Hub is co-located with city of Cambridge.  Since it opened 4 years ago, it now has 27 services, including a Community Health Centre as well as a rural satellite hub.
  • Our Kids Network in Halton has three community hubs in Acton, Aldershot and Milton, which were established in 2004 with a collective impact framework.  Partnerships include Children’s Aid Societies, Public and Catholic School Boards, social services and others.
  • Community Door in Peel Region offer integrated social services in Brampton and Mississauga through a single, accessible location.
  • More Hubs mentioned in the Strategic Framework Report.

Hubs in development

  • Bridletown Neighbourhood Centre in Scarborough will use a former school property to deliver a wide range of integrated medical, social and fitness services.  It is a partnership between the YMCA, United Way, the Scarborough Hospitals and others.
  • St. Francis School in London will open a hub in September, 2016 in an underserviced part of the city in partnership with the City of London.  Four classrooms will be adapted for new services which will include early learning, and a family centre. 
  • Keith Community Hub in Hamilton is a partnership with Mohawk and community agencies to support the Keith neighbourhood with access to opportunities for jobs and higher education.