Tenant Engagement at the Nipissing District Housing Corporation
NDHC’s Good Food Box program, which is in its second month, allows tenants to purchase a box of healthy food at a reduced cost
For tenants living in some Nipissing District Housing Corporation properties, community services are few and far between. To meet the need in her tenant community, TracyAnn Bethune, Tenant Services Manager at NDHC, received funding from her service manager’s Innovation Fund to bring services and recreation programs to families. To help build confidence in the tenant community, Bethune focused on programs that would teach skills and connect tenants to local resources.
“We wanted to help people recognize their own skills,” she says.
In the summer, NDHC offered a free summer day camp for children, twice a week. Activities included dance classes, martial arts, yoga, arts activities, and First Aid courses. Parents were able to drop off their children in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. NDHC also hosted a family fun day and community fair, which brought local service providers to their residents’ doorsteps.
In December, NDHC asked local businesses to donate toys and gifts for the holidays. Tenants signed up for a holiday get together where they could buy gifts, at 25 cents each, for immediate family members. Bethune ordered pizza for the event and organized a gift wrap station and carol singing. The event was extremely popular and brought neighbours together to celebrate the holidays.
With support from the Northern Heritage Fund, Bethune was able to hire an intern to help coordinate a Good Food Box program. The program, which is in its second month, allows tenants to purchase a box of healthy food at a reduced cost. Each week, volunteers assemble and deliver boxes of fresh vegetables and fruits. Thirty-two families have already signed up to purchase the boxes.
“Before working at the Nipissing District Housing Corporation, I worked with a supportive housing provider, which offered so many services to its tenants,” says Bethune. “Including tenants at this level is so positive — it gives tenants the option to be informed and engaged with their community and it helps to develop respectful relationships between landlords and tenants.”
Another initiative Bethune has worked on is renovating NDHC’s community gardens, which were difficult for older tenants to access and had fallen into disuse. Raising the garden beds and including a wide platform for sitting made the gardens more accessible for residents who have difficulty bending. Since the renovation, the gardens now have a waiting list.
When creating engagement opportunities for tenants, Bethune recommends working with local service providers like Family Enrichment Networks, health units, St. John’s Ambulance, and the police and fire departments. These organizations are well-equipped to deliver programming and materials and may be able to advocate for funding to help execute events. Bethune also recommends applying to service managers and granting organizations (Ontario Trillium Fund, Northern Heritage Fund, United Way, and municipal programs) for program funding.