I want to thank the Synod of SouthWestern Ontario for a recent $5,000 seed money grant to Central Presbyterian Church. Central has put together a group to work on how God may be calling us to be a blessing in our local neighbourhood through some of our underused space. That group is now formed and will begin work very soon.
I include here below some of thinking behind this direction, which was used in our Synod application and has been adopted as a starting point by the Session of Central.
WHITE PAPER ON CENTRAL & ITS UNDERUSED SPACE
Over the last 10 years, Central Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, has renovated its large building extensively. The church is located in the heart of the Durand Neighbourhood, just south of downtown, with approximately 3,000 square feet of prime space that is unused during most of the week.
Over the last 6 months, Central has begun discussions on Christian hospitality and how God may be calling us to use this space to bless the local neighbourhood.
At an open meeting on January 20th, 2016, three main needs were assessed: children and youth; community gathering space; and community services.
- Children and youth: the need for affordable (not for profit) daycare and/or pre-school space in the neighbourhood. This is the church’s first priority. Currently, many families in the area are driving up the mountain to find affordable day care. The demand for affordable child care is great. A Presbyterian-run daycare or pre-school would therfore concretely help families of varying incomes near the church. There is ample space for this ministry on the top floor of the Sunday School wing.
- A gathering space: for the socially and economically diverse Durand neighbourhood: The church is located only two blocks from an area that houses the highest density of Ontario Works recipients in the province. In contrast, four blocks from the church are houses listed for $1+ million dollars. We believe offering Christian hospitality in the form of a gathering space for the community will lead to relationships where people from various walks of life are transformed by being together. This gathering space would take the form of a cafe in the church, which would train and employ the underemployed, and would be based on the model of a similar cafe in an Anglican Church Hall in Port Colborne, Ontario. We have the space for such a cafe on the main floor of the Sunday School wing.
- Community services: needs in the neighbourhood for a health clinic, tutoring, the Central Presbyterian Church School of Music (professional musicians here might offer lessons to children who cannot afford them), Alcoholics Anonymous, and other needs. These would be on the bottom floor of the Sunday wing.
PRINCIPLES MOVING FORWARD
- All three ministries would be not-for-profit, overtly Christian and run by the church (not outsourced).
- The steering committee would need to bring each stage of progress to Session, until the eventual implementation of each phase.
- The daycare/preschool is the ministry’s first priority. Planning for the cafe and community services would begin once the anchor ministry to children is up and running.
- Once up and running the preschool/daycare might fund a 2 hour/day director of outreach to build and grow the other ministries in the building.
Rationale for Preschool/Daycare in Durand
Why should Central serve the community with an affordable daycare?
-There are two types of daycares in Ontario: licensed centres and unlicensed home daycares. Licensed daycares are monitored by the province, follow strict rules and are subject to annual inspections. Unlicensed daycares are not monitored, inspected, or governed by provincial standards. While many unlicensed daycares are reputable, there have been instances of neglect or injury in unlicensed daycares that are overcrowded, dirty, and unsafe.
-Provincewide, there are only enough licensed daycare spots for 20 per cent of children in need of care.
-There is a drastic shortage of licensed daycare spots in Ontario. In Hamilton, there are only about 240 licensed daycare spots available for all babies up to 18 months. Roughly 11,000 spots are available for children between 18 months to 12 years old (including daycare and before/after school care).
-Often, parents choose unlicensed daycares simply because they cannot find space in licensed centres – or because licensed daycares are too expensive. Depending on the age of the child, parents pay anywhere from $40-$100+ per day (higher than the cost of university tuition).
-There are no licensed daycare facilities in the Durand neighbourhood and very few centres in the lower city.
-Studies have shown that when parents have access to affordable daycare, welfare claims drop as more parents head back to work instead of being forced to stay home due to unaffordable/unavailable childcare.
-The newly elected Liberals promised to revamp the Federal child benefit during the 2015 election. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made no mention of an affordable daycare strategy in the recent throne speech, both the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development have been tasked with developing a national child care framework.
Sources: The Hamilton Spectator, “The struggle for decent daycare,” pub. July 27, 2013
The Globe and Mail, “Parents, start saving now,” pub. Dec.9, 2015
The Globe and Mail, “The case for publicly funded child care in Canada” pub. Oct. 20, 2013
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (www.childcareontario.org)