Community service partnerships
The key trends and changes associated to poverty and marginalization.
Community Service Partnerships (CSP), part of the City of Toronto provides support to Toronto’s not-for-profit community organizations to deliver on their mission. Within this context, the Hispanic Development Council (HDC) is able to offer relevant services that respond to the always changing needs of the Spanish speaking community and contribute to the strengthening of the City’s well-being.
The Hispanic Development Council’s CSP program is based on constant monitoring and evaluation in regards to access to services that improve social outcomes by responding to the needs of our vulnerable, marginalized and high-risk communities. To prepare and ground this work we follow some methodological steps to ensure that the foundation and directions of the work actually are congruent with community needs and expectations. This means that our work is constantly learning from our own research, or other sources of information such as statistics Canada. A second step has to do with consultations and discussions with social/community workers as well as key informants plus community consultations related to public policy. The latter is highly important as most of the perspectives developed through forty years of work are intimately connected to public policy and what must be done.
Working with the community experts, service providers and service users, helps the organization to permanently understand the continuum of social service and transformative participation in the construction of community healthy well-being. HDC is about alternative planning and development of objectives in the long term. So for example, these days in our population growth models we see that 61% of community members in 2019 are first generation; In these number lies a reality for Latino Hispanics which necessitates a great degree of understanding on issues of aging and healthy living to anticipate a crisis that we could already predict that will affect our older communities in regards to health, economics, and all the areas covered widely today by themes of poverty and marginalization. Hence, one major part of work is dedicated to explore the challenges, but also explore within the community itself ways to participate in the eventual solutions to projected problems. Indeed, we are permanently looking into community capacity building models to engage community members to lead the development of social strategy and make use of community assets.
One last note on CSP shall be mentioned and has to do with the important need to share with others, similar concerns. As it is mentioned elsewhere, we are collaborating with academics to build wider perspectives of methodologies and knowledge building approaches. Also, it shall be mentioned that the work done with our colleagues of the Alternative Planning Group (African Continental, Chinese and South Asian Councils) is a permanent mutual source of stimuli and partnership to share challenges and opportunities in the City. CSP is one of the key pieces to sustain direct work by communities in achieving growth and development.
CSP___ So, what are the initiatives into the future? First and foremost there is the need to ensure the resourcing of the organization to enable our plans in unison with community needs. Fundraising in public and private fields will occupy some of our work so that we can continue to provide our services regarding our most vulnerable youth, women and seniors. Connected, but independent from this in a broader sense, there is the work done to organize a first symposium in the field of immigration, entrepreneurship and community economic development, in November 2014. In the meantime with the Alternative Planning Group will continue to Advance matters of Civic Engagement and diversity in planning in the year to come. Ultimately, HDC is focusing its efforts to build a long range path in which we shall respond to issues of poverty and marginalization, youth justice and health, education, seniors and work in empowering our most vulnerable populations in years to come.
Clients and needs connected to issues of legal problems, violence and incarceration. This may include family violence and immigration matters but also gender and in some circumstances LGBTQ work. As the Hispanic Council had one of the most relevant programs in the community regarding work with gangs, now that experience has carried over more into the family problem area, where still a number of former gang participants, and or their families require support, HDC still does follow up with them. This work, is in addition to other diversity of work including child protection cases, and increasingly, works with seniors requiring help in many areas from housing to abuse.
Finally, our main comment would be that all of the above has in general as a common factor the problems associated to marginalization and isolation within the system coupled most of the times with the high prevalence of poverty among Latinos, over 40%; lone parents (and their families) over 70%, seniors 65% and rapidly increasing in numbers. Mental health is another large crippling factor in the community.
HDC’s fundamental and most important achievement this far is continue to serve community members with a shoestring budget. As we mentioned above, some of the areas of work we do, are those that include many individual falling through the cracks of the system, or individuals whose problems can be multi-pronged and difficult to tackle because they require elements such as cultural competency, advocacy and multiple types of knowledge including law and mental health, among others. Again, poverty results in lack of services, and issues such as family violence are seriously affected.
Why HDC can do this work? mainly because the organization has strong experience in dealing with these issues, but again, as mentioned in number 5 previous chapter, the benefit of having the experience and trust of our network colleagues help us tremendously to facilitate the problem solving part when we have access to one of the most important networks in the system given the diversity of services. (When we talk about students and academics working with us, this is the benefit they encounter at HDC)
We measure effectiveness of our program depending of the specific function we are referring to. In the case of services such as counselling we use qualitative information regarding success and problems encountered in the delivery of service. Of course here, one of the most important indicators is client satisfaction. In the area of alternative planning, community development there is a combination of measurements which include community capacity building indicators, quantitative and qualitative indicators. We usually begin with the simple aspect of number of activities as well as the number of participants per activity. Since HDC moved to Finch at Keele street in North West Toronto, we have been monitoring this particular aspect of our work since many Latinos live here, but many others are further dispersed in the City. So, the statistics continue in a positive trajectory in general but we have diversified the meeting spaces in the city by doing work at Culture Link, City Hall, CSSP, Davenport Perth, North York Civic Centre and other spaces. Probably, one of the most important parts of our evaluation process is the qualitative where we look for opinions/satisfaction regarding the topics at hand. This means, first relevance of the topic at hand, and there are other elements that imply engagement, response to an issue and action, follow-ups and likelihood of greater involvement. Usually we use both formal and informal debriefing to conclude our different pieces of work.