Building community in the commons

WestEnd Commons provides a supportive space for all tenants

The WestEnd Commons includes communal space as well as living space.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

The WestEnd Commons, a part of the St. Matthews Non-Profit Housing Incorporation, is now located in the newly remodeled St. Matthew’s Anglican Church. Here, they run different programs where tenants can bring up issues that they have or things that they want to see being provided in the building. They also have seasonal events and potlucks for the residents to allow them to come together.

“About half the population are children … Twenty of our apartments are subsidized, which would be for low-income people, and six of our apartments are set at market rent. This is to create diversity in the building and (it serves as a) reflection of the broader community,” Cheryl Starr, the community connector for the WestEnd Commons, says.

She says the organization’s goal is to create a sense of community in the WestEnd Commons. They do this through several things, such as providing the tenants with a laundry room where parents can watch their children play on a play structure that was donated by the airport.

They also offer Christian ceremonies in the downsized St. Matthew’s Anglican Church parish, which is non-denominational, while also helping cover overhead costs of the building by renting out their basement to the Neighbourhood Resource Centre, the Spence Neighbourhood Association and local business startups.

According to their website, the WestEnd Commons’ commitment for the social enterprise is for the Neighbourhood Resource Centre (NRC) to provide safe and affordable programming in West Central Winnipeg.

This also includes meeting and office space for neighbourhood families and organizations. All money yielded is used to sustain the NRC in staff, maintenance and utilities.

Sharpe says all communities need subsidized housing, because if people have families, while also living with mental or psychological issues that do not allow them to work, at least they will have a place to live. WestEnd Commons also has a few programs that allow tenants to work on job development.

“We receive a grant towards local investment which helps us offer employment opportunities to our residents within our building so people can gain $100 per month by doing eight hours of work within the building, and that can be cleaning and maintenance,” she says.

She says residents can also gain employment by being an event host for some of the smaller functions that happen in the basement as well.

On March 1, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) published the “Here We’re at Home” report, in conjunction with the WestEnd Commons. The report is based on the WestEnd Commons model of subsidized housing with supports. It talks about subsidized housing making the lives of residents with lower income levels easier.

“It passed on an easier way of having a roof overtop of my wife’s and my head,” Craig Sharpe, a tenant at the WestEnd Commons says.

Published in Volume 72, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 29, 2018)

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