Connecting the dots
Salsbury’s story holds many new beginnings, many changes, leavings, and continuings. Through it all there is a thread that holds our story together: individuals committed to serving a neighbourhood and the people who inhabit it. This commitment has birthed initiatives, forged partnerships and shaped a community. We have endeavoured to give voice, place and dignity to those without someone to listen, without a place to belong, dismissed as unimportant. We have at times failed in these pursuits and will doubtless fall short in the future but we are committed to striving to do better while seeking forgiveness and forgiving.
Incorporated by Industry Canada in 1998, Salsbury Community Society began with a vision of a pastor for his congregation and their neighbourhood of Grandview Woodlands. The vision originates in an ancient Hebraic text, written to a people in exile, Jeremiah 29: BUILD HOUSES and SETTLE DOWN; PLANT GARDENS, EAT WHAT THEY PRODUCE, MARRY and HAVE SONS & DAUGHTERS. The vision was cast and some responded by settling in the neighbourhood. They noticed that all was not well with their neighbours and began to dream of a shared life of mutual friendship and care.
The Crossroads Community Meal was established in the church to provide a meal where people living on the streets / close to the streets and people from the church could come together around tables, to share supper and get to know one another. Through shared meals and conversations we learned that our friends lacked stable, affordable housing, were too familiar with isolation and that we needed their friendship. We dreamt of creating homes where we could live together and where all could belong.
After an original seed idea of moving into a building on Napier Street fell through, an inspiration of ‘cluster housing‘ was given to us: we could have several homes scattered throughout Grandview Woodlands in which this way of life could be nurtured. With ownership of two homes next door to our church on Salsbury Drive the migration began, of individuals from homes they knew, to ones that were unfamiliar, with unfamiliar people, risky, yes, but also an opportunity for friendship; to shape and be shaped in ways we never had been and never could be otherwise. Salsbury has operated homes on East 1st Avenue, Gravely Street, and Salsbury Drive. Two homes on Salsbury Drive remain under our operations. In 2007 these homes were named Co:Here Initiative.
A Place of Refuge
The dream of providing a home for those who had none extended beyond the people of our own neighborhood. A home was bought on Venables Street; here individuals and families from around the world looking to Canada as a place of refuge and new beginnings are met at the door by individuals who welcome them with arms and hearts extended: Kinbrace. Born of the same dream Kinbrace and Salsbury existed and operated together from the start in 1998. In 2012 Kinbrace was incorporated as their own charitable entity.
JustWork was birthed under Salsbury in 2004 in response to the findings of a church working group community assessment of employment issues in the neighbourhood. The results highlighted the lack of meaningful employment for many of the individuals at Kinbrace, Crossroads and others we had built relationship with. JustWork was our response to this. In 2006 they started their first social enterprises - JustGarden and JustPotters - and became their own charitable entity.
Gender Based Justice
At the shared tables of Crossroads we met women who were being prostituted and men who were pimps. Walking the borders of our neighbourhood and beyond it became clear there was a thriving unaddressed sex industry. Trafficked women were being prostituted into this; they were not receiving care, no one was interfering and no one was connecting it to gender based injustice. REED began under Salsbury in 2005 to begin to make changes, operating with the other initiatives until 2013.
Space for Quiet
With much to carry comes a need for space to restore, to be, to be still. Stillpointe was borne of a dream for a space for individuals to retreat to. A haven for those who responded to a call, to withdraw for a time and come home to the still space within. Stillpointe became a place of rest for Salsbury’s community homes and its initiatives: a place to gather, and hold one another in conversation and prayer.
After a burgeoning period of growth it became clear that the structure holding Salsbury no longer fit and capacity building became a priority. Meetings began in 2007 to vision how to satisfy the needs of each initiative more holistically and of Salsbury as a single entity more collaboratively. After much prayer, re-visioning and trust building, a new structure emerged, a new relationship between the initiatives was crafted and a Covenant Document was celebrated and signed in 2009.
Co:Here Housing Community
The church owned a large piece of land on the corner of 1st Avenue and Victoria Drive that was being used for parking and bought the house next to the parking lot hoping to use it as a drop-in space for Crossroads. However, the house was condemned and torn down, extending the size of the church’s land. It was then that someone had a spark of inspiration to use this valuable land to create affordable social housing and the Co:Here Housing Project was born. We have an address, 1723 Victoria Drive, where we hope to break ground in 2016 and begin housing people in within a year of breaking ground.
Widening the Family
By mid 2013 all the initiatives who were once a part of this collective called Salsbury were out on their own, all ‘grown up;’ deepening their own visions and capacities and developing their scope of influence in the neighbourhood of Grandview Woodlands and beyond. We remain partners and look to each other for inspiration, support and the knowledge that we are still in this together bound by our common origins, our common love for people and our common grounding in the story of Christ. Salsbury’s story continues...