Community renewal corporations come together to show province their worth

All 13 of Manitoba’s community renewal corporations have banded together to release a new report about what they do after the province put a hold on funding for the Neighbourhoods Alive! program.

Neighbourhoods Alive! program, which provides funding, has been put on hold for a review

Manitoba's community renewal corporations have come together to release a report reminding the province why they matter. (CBC News)

All 13 of Manitoba's community renewal corporations have banded together to release a new report about what they do after the province put a hold on funding for the Neighbourhoods Alive! program.

The Manitoba government launched Neighbourhoods Alive! in 2000 as a long-term social and economic strategy to support community-driven revitalization. It targeted older neighbourhoods across Manitoba, originally focusing on Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson.

Neighbourhood Alive! has now expanded to include other communities, including Flin Flon, The Pas, Dauphin, Portage la Prairie and Selkirk.

The community renewal corporations look at different strategies for dealing with their social, economic and environmental concerns, including issues such as poverty, unemployment and affordable housing.

They are predicated on the idea that the best neighbourhood renewal strategies come from the community.

At the end of November, the province "paused" the Neighbourhoods Alive! program to "ensure funding will be straightforward and predictable," the provincial government website says.

"Intake for the Neighbourhoods Alive! program has been paused while this review is underway," the website states.

Greg MacPherson of the West Broadway Development Corp. says Neighbourhoods Alive! is an important program. ((CBC))
The report, The Collective Impact of Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations of Manitoba, highlights some of the programs that Neighbourhoods Alive! has helped to fund.

Greg MacPherson, executive director of the West Broadway Community Organization and co-chair of the Coalition of Manitoba Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations, said when the government started to do an assessment, they decided to take a "long hard look" at how the renewal corporations were doing.

"How are we doing with this and what's the value of investment for neighbourhood renewal corporations? I think we've all been not only pleasantly surprised but just really proud of how good value for dollar we are delivering on the investment for our communities," MacPherson said.

Neighbourhoods Alive! has also done a lot to establish and fund programs, he said.

The renewal corporations have diversified their funding, so while the Neighbourhoods Alive! program pause is concerning, it will not shutter the organizations, MacPherson added.

"We are just waiting, I guess, to see if the fund reopens or if it changes. We will adjust accordingly. Community groups are going to continue to do hard work," he said.

"I think front-line work is being done by residents and volunteers on a day-to-day basis, and I can't imagine how the government could find a more efficient way to deliver to the neighbourhood, particularly Winnipeg's inner city."

The program has helped the West Broadway Community Organization manage eight community gardens, run the Good Food Club, distribute Good Food Boxes and help fix-up efforts in the neighbourhood, among other programs, MacPherson said.

He added that he understands why the government would do the review and the neighbourhood renewal corporations would be more than happy to help identify where improvements can be made, but completely ending Neighbourhoods Alive! would be devastating.

"Worst case scenario for us is if they fully remove that funding source from our arsenal of options. In that case, I think communities will suffer a great deal and so will front-line resources for people who need the most," he said.

"In all honesty, it would be a hard infrastructure to replace if they decided to completely gut it."

Neighbourhoods Alive! provided $5.2 million in funding in 2014-15 to the different community programs.