I had no idea what a neighbourhood house actually did until I started working with the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, or Kits House as it is fondly called. They are one of the founding members of our Westside Food Security Collaborative. Kits House was the sponsoring agency for the United Way grant we received this year to run our series of summer pocket markets, as well as the Greenest City Grant for the food recovery pilot. They are the only neighbourhood house on the west side, serving six communities which stretch from the water to the Musqueam and from Granville Street to UBC.
Working with Kits House over the past few years, I have seen first hand just how vital a neighbourhood house is to a community. During the pocket markets, I got to know some of the seniors who come to the Tuesday drop in there. For them that weekly gathering is not just about a warm bowl of soup, it is an important outing. The coordinators bring in guest speakers, they go on field trips and catch up with friends. There are youth programs and a daycare. You can learn computer skills, join in the community garden or attend a monthly potluck. I have personally benefited by joining the garden and being able to grow some of my own food.
Currently there are seven neighbourhood houses in the lower mainland plus an outdoor centre that fall under the umbrella of the Association of Neighbourhood Houses. The Association was founded in 1894 as part of the neighbourhood and settlement house movement. At the time, Kits House was called the Alexandra Orphanage and Non-Sectarian Home Society and was located a few blocks from its current site at Seventh and Vine. The neighbourhood houses helped new immigrants settle in, find a home, get work, meet people, and have some fun. That’s exactly what they are still doing today, addressing very local community needs. They call it building welcoming communities.
Kits House will be undergoing a major facelift in the next couple of years. They are in the final planning stages of a redevelopment that will include upgrading of the heritage Kits House and Hall buildings, fifteen much-needed affordable seniors housing units, new meeting and socializing spaces, including a rooftop garden. The renovation is being led by architect Sean McEwen, well known for his innovative and sustainable community designs, including Mole Hill in the west end.
Over the past three and a half years, Kits House has held four open houses, three focus groups and over fifty meetings with community members and government. Tonight they have their public hearing at City Hall. You can support the Kits House Redevelopment Initiative in three ways:
Emails will be distributed to Mayor and Council at the Public Hearing. To ensure your email makes it to council please send by 4pm on Dec. 14th.
Speak: Register to speak by calling Pat Boomhower at 604 873 7015 by 5pm on Tuesday December 14th, identify Kits House as the item you wish to speak to, provide your contact number or email and the spelling of your name. You can also register to speak between 7 and 7:30 on the 14th at the Council Chamber door.
Attend: Join Kits House staff, volunteers and community members in Council Chambers to show your support. Tuesday December 14, 7:30pm Council Chamber, Third Floor, Vancouver City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue at Cambie Street.