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Where is the Weston King Neighbourhood Centre (WKNC) operating?​

The Centre’s boundaries extend across Highway 401 in the north, down Jane Street with a little westward flow towards Keele, across Eglinton Avenue West in the south to the Humber River and Scarlett Road. The hub is Weston Road with the Centre located three traffic signals north of Lawrence Avenue West, at King Street.

How long has WKNC been in existence?

The Tuesday night supper started in February 1995 with some members of Central United Church (CUC) offering a place for people to come in and enjoy a meal and friendship. This continued to expand as the numbers of people coming to eat grew. Then in 1999, Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre and Toronto Public Health “The Works” contacted CUC asking for use of both the service user base and the location to open a satellite office for their housing and harm reduction programs. With the experience brought by those staff, in 2000 CUC applied for Federal funding through the Supporting Community Partnership Initiative (SCPI) to expand to a three day-a-week drop-in and to hire a full-time staff member. This granting of funds in 2001 led to further expansion and incorporation as WKNC in January 2003.

Where does the money come from to operate the Centre?

The program started with money donated by the Central United Church (CUC) congregation and from a trust left with the church for such work. The facilities, insurance and janitorial services are also provided by CUC. In recent years, funding has also been provided through the federal Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI) and Homelessness Partnership Initiative (HPI) programs (paying for salary, administration, renovations and appliances) the City of Toronto through the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration for drop-in services and Public Health for the HIV/AIDS prevention program. The Ontario Trillium Foundation has provided funding for staff and for adding air conditioning to the drop. The Toronto West Presbytery of the United Church of Canada has supported the community outreach and local service clubs and individuals donate cash. Other companies have provided products and food items. Individuals also donate clothing, food and other needed items. Unpaid volunteers provide services such as shopping, cooking and serving meals.

How does WKNC benefit the community?

This area of the City has few services of this kind to offer people. WKNC assists low-income people and those who are homeless or under-housed. Through our programs and partnerships we provide a six day-a-week drop-in. At the drop-in people are able to obtain referrals for housing support and eviction prevention; assistance with income and health issues including HIV/AIDs prevention, needle exchange, condoms, crack use kits and personal hygiene items, and employment referrals. There is access to housing lists, telephone, fax and copier, Internet sources, newspapers, clothing, showers and laundry facilities,. By having a place to meet others and to socialize the sense of isolation is somewhat diminished. People who use the services often feel a sense of belonging. Help is given in a non-judgmental atmosphere, reducing some of the frustration experienced when dealing with the bureaucracy. Those with literacy and language challenges are helped to access the government systems. In a community people tend to be more contributing and law abiding when they feel a sense of belonging rather than alienation. When the needs of community members are being addressed we are contributing to building a healthy community to benefit everyone.

What does the term “harm reduction” mean?

“Harm reduction” is a set of principles and practices that help substance users decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of substance abuse without requiring them to abstain from using. They accept the reality of an individual’s present situation and attempt to provide information and resources so that people can make healthy life choices. 

Though WKNC does not have an explicit Harm Reduction program, the various programs that make up the services provided by the Drop-In make it inherently Harm Reduction. By feeding, clothing, and socializing with the people in the community, WKNC reduces the Harm of modern life on many of our members.

What connection does WKNC have with Central United Church?

Central United Church (CUC) has a historical connection with WKNC. The church started the Tuesday night suppers, building a service user group. This group was used as the basis of the drop-in when it started as a satellite service of Syme-Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre and Toronto Public Health “The Works“. Central United Church then helped develop the proposal to get funding for a full-time program coordinator and formed the core of the interim Board that handled the incorporation, inviting other faith community members to join. Central United Church currently provides WKNC with free premises and some janitorial services, while the Tuesday night meals continue to be funded through the church and to be run by volunteers that include CUC members. The Board of Directors has an ex-officio member of the Toronto Conference of The United Church of Canada and a proportion of the elected directors must also have the endorsement of the church.

 

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