For ten years we’ve been rooted in downtown Windsor, working together with anyone who wants to see our city be healthy and vibrant. The Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative is a network of neighbours committed to the ongoing renewal of the downtown core. Most of our network live downtown, but others participate in renewal from outside the border. All are committed to the downtown being a great place for everyone who lives here. DWCC is the structure that enables us to organize the activities that bring people together, and advocate change for the good. Downtown Windsor’s core is bounded by the River to Giles, Howard to Caron. In that 4 square kilometers, there are approximately 16,000 people living in several distinct walkable neighbourhoods.
Our DWCC office used to be located at the corner of Church and Wyandotte. However, we no longer have a permanent office. Our staff live and work out of their downtown neighbourhoods.
It all started in 2010 when a group of friends decided that there was no sense just talking about renewal, we needed to jump in and by doing life together be part of the solution. Some moved downtown to work with others already present. Others joined in by doing life in the downtown as much as possible. And our Church roots still shape us – that our faith is not segregated to Sunday morning but shapes our everyday life— being hopeful, gracious, neighbourly, hospitable, compassionate, and looking out for others.
Our vision for downtown is of ‘biblical proportions’ The words of a prophet from 2,500 years ago are still fitting for our city— ‘divine intervention’ looks like this: “Old men and old women will come back to the city, sit on benches on the streets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes —a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing —a good city to grow up in.”
Our mission is to renew the city through nurturing neighbourhood engagement. That happens when groups of residents identify valued activities and help to make them happen. These include a network of homes being a ‘faithful life-giving presence’, community gardens, barrier-free sports programs, community celebrations, art nights and neighbourhood projects (such as crime prevention initiatives, special events, cleanups, and more).
Our strategy is to integrate our neighbourhood networks with the neighbourhood engagement activities. We’re working to connect a series of homes in every neighbourhood committed to being a faithful life-giving presence on their streets. This interacts with the programming of events and activities across the neighbourhoods that provide a place for people to participate in change, and build new friendships.
What are the challenges facing our downtown core?
Much of our city centre has faced significant adversity over the last couple decades. The former centre of retail and commerce has moved to the outskirts. Industry has moved to the edges. Housing inventory of almost a century old reflects different family life. A decade of stagnant pricing has limited reinvestment by landlords. The centralization of social supports leads to a large proportion of low income residents living close by. The economic downturn of the last decade has not rebounded in the core. We see its harsh effect in health and additions, economics, employment, our buildings and in public spaces.
In spite of tough assessment, our neighbourhoods have the ability to heal themselves. There is an enviable infrastructure that encourages community. Our streets are walkable. Our schools, stores, and places of worship are in walking distance. Our homes are neighbourhood friendly – front porches that bring us out of our privacy, small front lawns bring sidewalk and porch in accessible distance. Living in our homes and on our streets are persons with an abundance of dreams, talents, and gifts. The DWCC works with our neighbours to strengthen and renew each of our neighbourhoods in the core. And many of us within the DWCC – as followers of Jesus – encourage the pursuit of living out a model of compassion and restoration by being a faithful life-giving presence in our neighbourhoods.
What’s our strategy for renewing the city?
We believe that bringing neighbours together into community is the way renewal will happen in our city. It connects residents, it unlocks dreams, it addresses isolation and hopelessness, and it creates healthy and vibrant neighbourhoods.
Some of the things we’ve been involved in and are currently involved in are:
-Barrier Free Sports
-Dine & Doodle
-Drop-In Centre and Peer Support Worker in Glengarry Social Housing
-Glengarry Community Pantry
-Healthy Kids Cooking Classes
-Community Art Projects
-Downtown Windsor Farmers Market
-Little Things Matter Program
-River’s Edge Men’s House
-Women’s Community House
-Creative & Collaborative Responses to the Opioid Crisis
-Free Little Libraries
-Helping Residents Advocate
-Fostering Soulful Practices that sustain us for the long haul