York Woods Library gets a modern makeover!

York Woods Library is located on Finch between Jane and Sentinel, and it backs onto a beautiful ravine. The library first opened in 1970 and has served as a community hub for decades.

But York Woods is due for an upgrade! The inaccessible second floor, the inconvenient layout, and the lack of dedicated spaces has left the library behind the times. In mid-January, York Woods held a public consultation where they unveiled the most up-to-date plans for the new library.

Once complete, York Woods will be a bigger and more accessible community hub. It will have multifunctional as well as dedicated spaces so the library can be a place of learning, collaboration, and innovation. Children and teenagers who come to library will have access to different spaces – there will be a kids-stop to give a space to play, learn, and develop fine motor skills, a youth hub that will have after school activities and access to nutritious snacks, homework help, tech and programming lessons, and space to provide teenagers from the community a space to hang out.

There will also be a digital innovation lab – a place where those who are interested can have access to the latest technology like green-screens, video equipment, 3-D printing, cutting-edge software, and more!

The building is outdated. Its architecture is from the 1970s and layout no longer effectively services the neighbourhood’s growing needs and the modernization of world.

The project developers and architects of the York Woods Library aim to build the space to be responsive to; What’s best for the community? What’s coming up next for tech? What kind of spaces does (and will) the Jane-Finch Community and the rest of Downsview need, especially as our spaces are getting smaller?

These are exciting times for the community – the consultation was attended by many enthusiastic community members. York Woods Library will be closed once construction starts and many residents were upset to hear that they would be losing their space – but do not fret! A pop-up space will be opening to fill in the gap in the interim.

North York Women’s Shelter’s new facilities bring opportunities

In spring of 2019, North York Women’s Shelter (NYWS) will open the doors to its newly renovated facilities that are set to be kid friendly, culturally competent, and include a community hub. NYWS is nestled in between Downsview Park and Sheppard West station – making it connected to a local scene and accessible to the rest of the city’s resources.

Established in 1984, NYWS continues to be a safe place for women and children impacted by violence. As research on how to best help survivors of gendered violence advanced, NYWS took federal funding opportunities to redesign and renovate the facility to better serve their residents.

Executive Director, Mohini Datta-Ray, described the new shelter as “future oriented” with a focus on providing survivors a holistic approach to healing and giving women the tools they need to take the next steps in their lives.

It will be a 24,000 square feet shelter with 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms with 30 beds, with the capacity for an additional 10 beds if their operational budget targets are met. This is a huge improvement from the 3,000 square feet shelter with only six bedrooms and three bathrooms for 30 beds that left residents crowded and prevented necessary programming.

Traditionally, women’s shelters are at a confidential and discrete location. Shelters are usually intended to be outside the purview of the community and to exist in isolation of the neighbourhood.

“It’s a new model – we’re breaking the paradigm. The model is that we are both a shelter and a community service hub,” Datta-Ray explained. The community hub will service not only those in the shelter but women within the community who need a safe space and cannot leave their situations.

The shelter itself will be built to accommodate children, have a kennel for residents’ dogs, and a wood-burning oven for women of different cultures to bake bread. Its new community hub will have partnerships with different groups like the Black Creek Community Health Centre, Black Creek Community Farm, and other service groups to ensure that clients can access the resources they need.

As Toronto becomes more expensive and funding for ending violence against women continues to be erratic and dependent on governments, it is important to not only give survivors the resources they need to survive but also to thrive.

The new NYWS has a large 1000 square-foot multipurpose room that can be a space where women can self-organize and be political. Alongside providing services, NYWS aims to foster a peer-support system so women can be politically active and demand more from their politicians to enact lasting change.

“We realized that you can build 40 thousand shelters but you will never address the issue because you are just continuing to address the symptom of the problem,” Datta-Ray explained. The new space will help empower residents to advocate for institutional changes to end violence against women.

Editorial: TEDxDownsviewWomen

On November 29th, our neighbourhood will host its own TEDx entitled, TEDxDownsviewWomen Conference “Showing Up.” It will showcase women who are change makers, creators, performers, and inspirational women from different walks of life right here in Toronto.

           2018 has been informally deemed as the “Year of the Woman.” It is a year where the #MeToo movement has exposed the sexual violence and harassment in industries like Hollywood but also here in Canadian politics. It is a year where the dangerous and toxic “incel” culture (a culture that is deeply misogynistic) has been cited as an inspiration for the attacker in the Toronto Van Attack in North York that killed ten people including eight women. 2018 is also the year where a record number of women, nearly 40%, were elected into Queen’s Park as MPPs.

           Women have been spearheading change and on November 29th they will have the opportunity to present and explore the ways in which they have influenced change in their personal circles, fields, and local communities. Speakers and performers include women from diverse backgrounds like planetary science, gender and equity disciplines, medicine, entertainment, and business.

           This is the first TEDxDownsviewWomen event and the diversity of the participants reflects not only the different women who are enacting change but also reflects the strides that women right here in country and city are making.

To learn more, check out the event at https://tedxdownsviewwomen.com.