Community Builder Profile: Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses
October 12, 2019
My name is Barbara Carroll. I’m the coordinator of the Debra Dynes Family House. Welcome to the neighborhood! Debra Dynes is one of 15 community houses that are right across the city of Ottawa, all of them in low income neighborhoods. I think the Coalition of Community Houses is quite unique in the way that it works. We work together, because that allows us to leverage our programs and services right across the city. But it also allows those community houses to respond really well to the needs of their individual communities. We need to work in very creative ways to make programs possible here. We work with tiny budgets and we work with very pressing need. One of the best things about working in communities is that your day is never going to be the same twice over — collective kitchens will be on certain days, sewing programs are twice a week, access to computers is every single day and we finish the day every day with our children coming home from school. We see a hundred people a day coming through Debra Dynes. When somebody comes through the door, we do not know if that’s going to mean, ‘Would you have a loaf of bread?’; ‘I’ve run out of diapers, I don’t know what to do for my baby’; or it might be ‘I have a really serious immigration issue’. We meet some very basic needs. We work in communities in Ottawa Community Housing Neighborhoods with large families. And we know without nearby support, and without the mentorship and neighbourly connections, and finding opportunities for young people in the neighborhood — when there are barriers to travel, and there are barriers to accessing the greater resources we have available in Ottawa — it will be sometimes challenging for parents to get out and find those things. I think a community houses play a vital role in sort of being the first responders of community needs in these neighborhoods. My introduction to community houses was through sports — it was not intentional, I wasn’t planning to be a volunteer. But from there you grow. For me, that was it. Having an opportunity to play sport in my community allowed me to get involved. We really like to see the successes. And it really is just as simple as being a constant support to people in places where it is really needed. Everybody has potential, but not everybody has opportunities. We like to fill in those gaps and see if we can create opportunities.