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Why community centres are important

September 2015 by United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County

Editorial comment

With one-third of low-income individuals in Windsor living in very low-income neighbourhoods, a rate that is highest in Canada, the United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County and our partners recognize that to help with neighbourhood renewal, community centres play a vital role as an anchor. They are places where people of all ages can gather to enrich their bodies and minds, as well as foster feelings of community and civic pride. For the Glengarry-Marentette neighbourhood, Windsor Water World is that anchor. For a neighbourhood that has struggled, and been identified by United Way and its partners for programs and support, the loss of such a community pillar would be a setback to the improvements we are seeing.

Although Water World is no longer home to a swimming pool, which has driven down overall attendance at the facility, it is home to after-school programs and other neighbourhood activities.  In 2014 these after-school programs had over 12,000 visits from school-aged children. The fitness facility is only one of two in the downtown core and has nearly 400 members who pay an annual membership fee that is nearly half the rate of other nearby facilities. The centre is also home to the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) which provides early childhood education and parental support free of charge, four days a week.  Additionally, rooms and facilities in Water World were rented out to the community for use in events, meetings, parties and gatherings over 190 times in 2014. In fact, Water World is seen as such a vital hub that until the recent closure announcement, United Way and its partners had been examining opportunities to offer new programs housed in this facility.

For these reasons and more, the loss of a community centre like Water World would pose a significant and negative impact on the surrounding neighbourhood. There is a broad catalogue of research that shows the connections between barriers to local access to programs and facilities in neighbourhoods, with a rise in indicators of poverty and poor health, such as declining childhood literacy rates or a rise in obesity rates.

The loss of local after-school programs which encourage childhood literacy and education, local fitness facilities which improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and facilities for community events and functions may not only impact the local neighbourhood, but the city as a whole.  The potential consequences of this are illustrated in the United Way’s 2014 Cost of Poverty report which estimates many of the costs borne by taxpayers and society if poverty is not addressed in our community.  Poverty is linked to poor health, reduced productivity, and criminal activity.   United Way estimates that the burden this places on governments and taxpayers equates to somewhere between $459-629 million annually in Windsor-Essex.

Although the closure of one facility may not immediately increase these costs, the truth is that all of these costs can be eliminated.  We can help lift people out of poverty by providing supports like the Windsor Water World community centre which acts as a hub for the community and enables access to programs and service for those who need it most.

Currently there is no other facility in the Glengarry-Marentette area that could offer all of the services provided at Water World. With no announcement of an updated timeline from the Catholic School Board to redevelop the location, it will likely be some time before it is available to the community again. With space for social, health and after-school programs at a premium in the downtown core, the gap created by this closure will place additional strains on local residents as the programs will be forced to relocate farther from the neighbourhood.

We would ask City Council to reconsider the recommendation to close Windsor Water World, as it sets back the progress being made to the development of a thriving neighbourhood in the city’s core at a time when we should be looking for innovative ways to eliminate these costs.

Last updated on April 1, 2022

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