Over the years Jane and Finch has developed the reputation for not being the safest place for youth to live or grow up. Violence and drugs automatically come to mind for many people when thinking of the North York area. Over the past two years there have been numerous headline grabbing shootings that have plagued the neighbourhood’s reputation.
What is ironic is that Jane and Finch was developed in the 1960’s as a model suburban area in response to the rapid urban growth in Toronto. The plan was for the community to be a hub for a socially diverse population, which included a significant amount of public housing. Decades later, the stats don’t support a rising endorsement for the area. Now in 2013 the community has the highest rates of immigrants, single parents, low-income families, unemployment, and residents with less than a high school education etcetera. Perhaps more importantly, the community has one of the highest rates of youth and children in the GTA .
In recent years, Jane and Finch has been recognized by the United Way of Greater Toronto as one of the nine neighbourhoods/communities “that have poor and very poor access to services and face significant challenges,” according to a report published by United Way in 2003 entitled ‘Poverty by Postal Code.’ Significant investments are being made in the community to combat these issues and maybe the most important is the investment in youth living in and around the area. One of these investments is The Spot.
The Spot, which is a drop-in centre for youth between the ages of 13-30, is located at the Yorkgate Mall. Their mission is to keep local youth off the street, prevent violence and drug abuse by promoting healthy lifestyle choices and provide productive youth alternatives. Through all the various programs they offer the focus is on making new friends, gaining leadership skills, contributing to the community and offering insight on violence prevention, anti-racism, sexual health, peer mentoring and more. It also serves as a popular way for high school students to complete their community service hours. Opened in 2004, The Spot, Where You(th)Wanna Be, has since become like a second home for many youth.
Jane and Finch is an area with a tremendous amount of pride and is seen as a significant model for multiculturalism. There is a lot of work in the area, but the fight is not over and the youth are getting involved to turn around the reputation of Jane and Finch and restore it to a community to be proud of in Toronto.