JANE FINCH COMMUNITY MINISTRY
Jane Finch Community Ministry is situated in the North West part of the city of Toronto. Although the neighbourhood is considered a low-income community with a high ratio of public housing developments, it is rich with cultural diversity and a caring spirit. This community, with representation of over 110 nationalities and 70 different dialects spoken, was a recipient of the Trillium Caring Community Award for excellent “achievements in the face of limited resources and difficult circumstances”.
The Jane Finch Community Ministry provides community development and community organizing support, offers pastoral care and is engaged in advocacy through coalitions and networks.
Our office is situated near the social housing community of Firgrove called Connections. We work in collaboration with the Firgrove public housing community and larger Jane Finch area.
The community ministry provides support to Jane Finch Unity, a grassroots organization that is committed to ending gun violence in the neighbourhood. Over the years the ministry has supported many coalitions and networks including: Basic Needs Action Network, Network of Community Based Organizations, Making Connections, Jane Finch Street Involved Youth Issues Coalitions, Neighbourhood Action Youth Employment Committee, Black Creek Financial Action Network, Black Creek Community Collaborative, Jane Finch Crisis Response Network, Beyond Carding Coalition, Jane Finch Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy, Jane Finch Church Coalition, Black Creek Micro Credit program .
Through partnerships, the Ministry provides many meaningful programs and initiatives including: recreation programs for youth, arts and crafts, community and cultural festivals, educational and employment programs, a monthly food bank, community kitchens, and student nutrition programs. A microcredit program was developed to provide loans to local entrepreneurs who have great business ideas, but cannot access bank credit. To address problems of systemic racism and skyrocketing rates of unemployment for black male youths, the Ministry plays a central role in distributing scholarships and back packs filled with school supplies, in conjunction with the Firgrove Tenants’ Association, Firgrove Learning & Innovation Community Centre and the Painters Union. Since 2007 a total of 12,000 back packs have been given out. This year 3 scholarships were awarded and in 2015 Mayor John Tory joined the Back to School BBQ where 10 scholarships were handed out.
PASSPORT TO EMPLOYMENT
The community ministry, together with the Neighbourhood Action Youth Employment Committee (NAYEC) recognized the need to increase the employability of youth in Jane and Finch. Passport to Employment (PTE) was created with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. PTE works with five high schools in the Jane-Finch/Black Creek area where youth learn skills in fun and interactive ways. PTE also serves youth between the ages of 15 – 29 who are out of school and out of work offering training and assistance to secure employment. The three year program was launched in January 2018.
BLACK CREEK MICRO-LENDING
This program aimed at assisting individuals who want to pursue professional development, start a new business or fund an existing business has been doing so since 2007.
Over 100 individuals have approached us over the years and continue to do at our drop-in centre located at the YorkU/TD Community Engagement Centre in the Yorkgate Mall. At least 10 individuals successfully access loans via our partner organization, Access Community Capital Fund.
Currently, we have 2 types of loans:
Mini Microloans – up to $1,000 for professional development, start or fund an existing business
Microloans – up to $5,000 to start or fund an existing business
We provide support, guidance and mentorship throughout the entire application process. As well as, we align our clients with support from other organizations and agencies within the city as they require.
The community minister provides pastoral care including: crisis counselling, supportive listening and also conducts vigils, memorials and funerals.
Dushie was a 23 year old youth who grew up in Connections, where the Jane Finch Community Ministry office is located. He was fatally shot on October 23rd, 2016 at a dance in Mississauga. The family asked Barry Rieder, the Community Minister, to conduct the candlelight vigil. On October 27, 2016 about 80 friends and family members of Deshawn (Dushie) Nicholson showed up in Mississauga on a cold dreary night to remember his life.
TOWARDS A HIGHER JOURNEY
Although youth homicides in Toronto had tapered off since 2005 (the year of the Gun) there was a spike in 2013 with six of the shootings being young black men under the age of 16. Four of those shootings were in Jane and Finch. In conjunction with other community partners the Community Ministry was heavily involved in providing grief support to the families and communities, through vigils, funerals and crisis counselling.
As a faith community trying to provide hope, collectively we must ask the bigger questions of why is it that we are becoming numb to these tragedies and why are they happening in the first place. The Jane Finch Community Ministry is committed to addressing the roots of the problems, like systemic racism that fuels underemployment and lack of access to credit.
In the fall of 2013 a group was established consisting of the community ministry, Unifor (the old C.A.W. union), Toronto Community Housing, family of the victims, a school principal, city politicians, youth, a business owner and community workers with the aim at making a difference. The group calls itself - T.A.H.J. Towards a Higher Journey (using the letters of the name of one of the youth, Tahj, who was killed in 2013). The group has raised funds to support programing for youth falling between the cracks and have also done a mural in the Firgrove as a tribute to youth killed in the community.
With the support from the Mission Service fund the Jane Finch Community Ministry is able to stand in solidarity with a the community of Jane and Finch providing hope of a different future.
Where are you going? To climb the holy mountain
Where are you going? To drink from the spiritual fountain
Where are you going? To cross the open sea
Where are you going? To a place I can be free
Where are you going? To hear the trumpets sound
Where are you going? To watch people dance around
Where are you going? To stand in a line
Where are you going? To meet the most Divine
Where are you going? To eat bread and honey
Where are you going? Towards a higher journey