MVA's South Vancouver Social Inclusion Team has been very active this fall working with the City of Vancouver to upgrade the sidewalks in our neighbourhood.
The South Vancouver cluster is made up of MVA member institutions in the neighbourhood - St. Thomas Anglican Church, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, First Lutheran Church and St. Mary's Catholic Parish.
Each did a listening campaign and heard from their members that social isolation was a major pressure facing families in the neighbourhood. We heard that sidewalk disrepair was causing social isolation among seniors and those with mobility challenges, such as needing a flat surface to use their a walker or wheelchair.
"After determining sidewalk safety as the project to work on, we went out and mapped the locations in our neighbourhoods where the sidewalks were in disrepair. Many people affected by this issue are in their 80's, so using digital cameras or phones to make the report was challenging. We used the MVA network and partnered with the youth from South Van Neighbourhood house. We planned an intergenerational walk through the neighbourhood, partnered up, and our youth partners documented the sidewalks that needed upgrades on their ipads."
"We pooled the resources of 4 community organizations to get it done, and included as many people as we could from each organization to make it a true neighbourhood event and a learning experience for all. It definitely strengthened the relationships in our community and a sense of belonging and responsibility for our neighbourhood." Jayne Fenrich, co-chair of the Social Inclusion team who lead the project.
One of the youth said "After walking with the seniors I realized how hard it was to move a walker over a little crack I didn't think was a big deal. I see now that unsafe sidewalks can affect anyone, even me. If I were to to break my leg I would be in the same situation."
Once we completed our report, we contacted the city of Vancouver.
Eric Mital and Michael Irwin, Asset Managers met with us at South Van Neighbourhood House to review our report and explain how sidewalks were maintained.
Barbara Warner, Social Inclusion Team member explained the impact of unsafe sidewalks on seniors, and how a recent fall left her with a broken hip.
We asked lots of questions and found out that there are 2,000km of sidewalks in the City of Vancouver. Each year the sidewalk is audited at least once, and if it is in need of repair, it will be fixed within 7 days. We learned that sidewalks are fixed if the gap was more than 2.5 cm.
The city officials were impressed by our work and made a commitment to take our report and compare it with their own audit. We will be doing another intergenerational walk in the spring and Eric and Michael will join us to see our process and explain how sidewalks are maintained.
It was encouraging to have city officials so engaged with us and forthcoming with the information that allowed our team to contribute to the process. One of the youth remarked in our closing round, "Wow, I now know a lot about sidewalks!"
We are proud of our work, happy to get our sidewalks in better repair and glad to have formed new working relationships between MVA organizations in our neighbourhood and with the city of Vancouver.
Stay tuned for the next Social Inclusion Team sidewalk project and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to do one in your neighbourhood.