Back in the 1960s, northern Etobicoke was rapidly changing from a rural area to a suburb. In the space of just a few years thousands of new inexpensive houses became home to young working class families. A number of subsidized housing developments were also constructed in the area during the same period. However, planning officials did not consider the social support services that these new families would need. Today, our nursery schools, social clubs, public transportation and voluntary helping agencies are taken for granted. Thirty years ago services like these were almost non-existent.
Starting an information directory…
Recognizing they could not do everything all at once, a group of concerned residents decided to start a Community Information Directory. They envisioned this service as a central point of access for families and individuals in need of help. They also planned to track caller’s requests and develop services in response to community needs.
In April 1971, ANS formally called Rexdale Information Directory office opened in donated space at Albion Mall, with trained volunteers answering inquiries from the public. Later Ernestine Van Marle was hired as the Co-coordinator. The first secure funding came about in 1976, after the volunteer Board of Directors successfully applied for United Way agency membership.
Becoming more than an information directory…
Right from the beginning callers inquiries indicated a need for a legal service. This prompted the agency to develop its first partnership, and as a result Ontario Legal Aid began providing services from the office in Albion Mall. (This service grew to become an independent organization in 1993: Rexdale Community Legal Clinic.) Over the years, a number of other services were set up in response to the changing needs of the community — services such as Crisis Intervention, Pension Advocacy, Settlement Assistance, Income Tax Form Filling, Housing Help, Children and Youth Programs and Summer Day Camp.
In 1998, the agency began to build a Boys & Girls Club, with the assistance of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, to meet the needs of the large number of children living in the area. Financial support is received from a number of sources: United Way of Greater Toronto, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, City of Toronto, CHUM Christmas Wish Foundation, and the Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund.
Finding a new name..
To reflect the growth and the diversity of the services being offered, as well as the long-time location in Albion Centre, the name of the agency was changed in 1998, to Albion Neighbourhood Services.
Albion Neighbourhood Services has been in existence since 1971, serving the Jamestown/Rexdale Community for 41 years.
ANS has 4 major departments:
1. Access Community Services: Community information and referrals; community information database of government and non-profit services; case management (a wide range of multi-cultural individuals, families, groups of all ages); assistance with filling out forms, document replacement, preparing affidavits, commissioning oaths; income tax clinic; advocacy; sign-up location for Metro Voice Mail Project -- persons without addresses or telephones receive private phone number to retrieve messages from any touch tone phone; PAID project; providing workshops on various community needs/issues (e.g. senior issues, Ontario works, Revenue Canada, Pensions, Housing, etc.)
2. Albion Boys & Girls Club -Children and Youth Programs & Services: BGC offers programs and services for children and youth ages 6-21 to reach their full potential and well-being in a safe and nurturing environment. BGC offers various social, recreational, educational and creative programs and activities at various community based locations such as - breakfast clubs; after school clubs; city-wide inter Boys and Girls Clubs special events; literacy; creative arts and dance; sports leagues; parent support and education; leadership training; summer employment, scholarship access, community development; violence prevention; mentorship building. Our mission is to provide a safe and supportive place where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life. Albion Boys and Girls Club have a positive life changing impact on children and youth. All the programs nurture confidence in youth , provide opportunities to develop and practice leadership skills, participate in civil society and empower them to support and influence the community.
3. Housing Services: Street to homes- mobile street outreaching and follow-up to persons who are homeless; counseling; information and referrals; matching tenants with landlords; eviction prevention; Rent Bank; landlord outreach and recruitment; Housing Connections; Winter Warmth Fund, sponsored by Enbridge Gas Distribution and United Way of Toronto -- assistance to low income individuals and families who are in arrears for their natural gas utility bills and have exhausted all other sources of financial support.
4. Emerging Community Group’s Trusteeships- Community Development and Capacity Building: INI Youth Grants, AMADEUSZ project, Rexdale Community Hub co-lead partner.