By Stephen Sweet, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Markham is working with the Canadian government to try and make our communities safer.
Four focus areas in York Region, including south-central Markham, are being included in a community action program to increase safety in those locales via resident-led plans.
“York Region collaborated with Public Safety Canada to receive funding under the Building Safer Communities Fund (BSCF) to increase education and awareness about community safety and well-being,” said Lisa Alfieri Sladen, York Region’s manager of Community Innovation and Partnerships. “This is including, but not limited to, education and awareness of the risks and consequences of gang involvement.
“The region will use this funding to roll out the Community Violence Prevention Fund to help address underlying social risk factors, with a focus on promoting youth and community resiliency and lowering barriers to services.”
Through the BSCF, York Region will receive $7.3 million over four years to help support and implement the Community Safety and Well-Being (CSWB) plan.
Along with Markham, three other locales in northern Georgina, central Newmarket and south-central Richmond Hill were chosen for this initiative.
“The decision behind all (of) the focus areas was based on data and research,” she said. “Focus areas were determined using a composite measure of data across three domains: economic stability, social and human development, and health and well-being.
“These were also validated through consultations with residents and local municipalities.”
Given the vast differences between demographics even within communities of York Region, there is no expectation of running a ‘one size fits all’ program.
“Effective community development initiatives acknowledge that each community is unique,” she said. “Taking an approach that factors in these unique needs allows York Region to coordinate culturally appropriate and relevant supports.
“By focusing on those communities that can benefit the most, the CSWB Plan provides the opportunity to leverage local resources and strengths and bridge gaps to make the greatest impact.”
Another element which she sees as a key to potential success is that the ideas are to come from community members themselves.
This way, the plans can empower Markham residents and open the floor to some potential long-term solutions.
“Creating resident-led initiatives allows for increased capacity building in grassroots groups that may not have had access to funding previously,” she said. “There are many leaders throughout our communities who have great ideas, (have) lived experiences and (carry) a strong understanding of their community’s needs who can inform and lead this work.”
Having the ideas come from people living in the city, she feels, can lead to a greater benefit.
“Our goal is to empower the residents who are passionate about creating positive change in their local communities by providing them with resources to equip them for success,” she said. “With the guidance of a local non-profit and York Region’s Community Development team, these residents will have the opportunity to bring their local solutions to fruition.
“This also means that culturally appropriate and relevant support is available when connecting with communities that can benefit most.”
Those with ideas for plans can receive up to $4000 to implement their projects. Each resident-led group must be made up of at least five community members who are not related to one another and not live at the same address.
They must either be members of a resident group or have come together to implement a community violence prevention project.
Applications for the plans will be evaluated on an ongoing basis until November 30, 2023, or until all funds have been allocated.
For more information about the Community Violence Prevention Fund, as well as to find a link to the application online, visit york.ca/CommunityAction.
Photo: York Region will receive $7.3 million over four years to help support and implement the Community Safety and Well-Being plan. (YR photo)