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Citizen participation in neighbourhood rehabilitation: a pilot study of a sample area (Lower Mount Pleasant) Vancouver, British Columbia, 1962 Hicks, Helga Maria

Abstract

For a long time, the section of the city in which social welfare, city planning and housing reformers have had common ground, has been that of "the slums". Just as the more comprehensive approach of "urban renewal" has taken over from "slum clearance", so also has interest in the modern city, in the throes of growth and decay, shifted to districts where rehabilitation rather than large-scale demolition may be appropriate. The present study is a pilot project for this kind of area. A small neighbourhood from the "limited redevelopment" section of Vancouver (Lower Mount Pleasant, to the south of False Creek) has been selected for detailed study, with special reference to (a) its physical and environmental features, (b) its resident population, and (c) the prospects of local community action, as well as the forms of aid and encouragement from appropriate agencies of government or citizen action needed to bring about effective rehabilitation. There are implications here for individual social workers, for social agencies, and for the social work profession which can only be concretely drawn on the basis of a "grass roots" survey. Ways and means of co-operation between social workers and planners is also one of the issues in this kind of study. The method of the project was twofold: (a) A review of the rapidly growing literature on neighbourhood rehabilitation, largely American, was undertaken to abstract the broad principles for gaining and maintaining citizen participation which are emerging. (b) The pilot area was surveyed in detail. (i) All appropriate voluntary and public agencies and government departments were approached for information about the physical and social features of the area. (Maps help to define the district.) (ii) Leaders of representative community groups operating in the larger neighbourhood were interviewed to appraise needs and attitudes. (iii) A questionnaire was devised to assess the identification of the residents with the area, and the possibility of involving residents in the rehabilitation of the neighbourhood. Perhaps the main finding of this pioneer survey is that both assets and liabilities must be realistically assessed for a successful community organization undertaking. (a) Neighbourhood rehabilitation requires (i) abroad national legislative and administrative framework, (ii) a partnership between city officials, city-wide citizen groups and residential groups at the neighbourhood level, (iii) at least a minimum staff trained in community organization to assist local neighbourhood action, (b) This particular area is not likely to initiate action by itself, (c) Current public utilities (including school, parks, streets, etc.) are of strategic importance in neighbourhood development; financing, both from new and existing sources, must be given proper consideration in the total program.

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