DTES NH programming began in May 2005 in space borrowed from a community partner, with one part time staff and an annual operating budget of $23,000. During those early years we operated as a satellite program of Gordon Neighbourhood House. Our Steering Committee was composed of 20+ community members who benefited from the mentorship of both organizations.
In June 2009, the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House became an independent non‐profit Society and is now a federally registered charity.
Now with multiple staff and an annual operating budget that has grown significantly, we have been able to enjoy a steady growth that has been made possible by widespread community support, the commitment of Volunteers who yearly invest 1000s of hours of unpaid work and funders whose financial contributions help to pay the bills.
A bit of History about Neighbourhood Houses
Following the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, Settlement Houses were the pioneer social movement that addressed poverty and dislocation. In 1884 Samuel Barnett, a leader of the social reform movement, founded Toynbee Hall in London’s impoverished Whitechaple District. Funding for this new institution was provided by Oxford, Cambridge, and a number of high-profile philanthropists. It was called a Settlement House because it acted as a temporary dormitory for university students . As these first settlers came to learn more about the causes and effects of poverty, they began to offer services such as literacy courses, legal advice, health clinics, translation services, and more. The concept proved appealing to the public, and settlement houses rapidly grew throughout Great Britain and North America. By 1920 there were 60 settlement houses in Britain, over 400 in the United States, and 12 in Canada. The movement pioneered the development of public recreation, day nurseries and adult education. The Settlement Houses Movement not only started what is now known as Neighbourhood Houses but also founded the basis for the profession of social work.
Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver trace their origins to an orphanage constructed in 1891, which was converted to Vancouver’s first Neighbourhood House in 1938: the Alexandra NH. Three years after the opening of the orphanage house, the Society now known as ANH was incorporated. In 1943 ANH opened the Strathcona daycare centre at 616 Cordova Street, just two blocks from Oppenheimer Park. The main aim of this centre was to support working mothers. The DTES was one of three neighbourhoods served by ANH by the middle of the 20th Century, the others being the West End and Victoria Drive.
Today there are 15 Neighourhood houses operating in the lower mainland, some are independent houses and some are part of the association. We all work together to provide benefit to our communities.