Community development is a term used to describe the work done by legal caseworkers who work with agencies and individuals to help them improve the quality of their life in their community.
Community development involves organizing groups of people to work together to understand, identify and respond to the legal needs of their community..
It is a very broad term. At our clinic we work with a variety of agencies and unincorporated groups of people (associations) in our catchment area. Responding to legal issues in a proactive manner is the key to community development in the legal context.
A classic example is the formation of tenants associations in large rental buildings. When a group of tenants are facing large and what they feel are unreasonable rent increases they can negotiate with greater authority and have better results with their landlord if they work together. The Federation of Metro Tenants is the main legal resource for the organizing of tenants associations in the Toronto area.
Our clinic is concentrating its efforts more in the income assistance field with our community development projects. We have acted as a resource to the Flemingdon Park ODSP group and assisted them to apply for funding for a variety of projects.
We are active with the Victoria Village community hub, the LIP project funded through Citizenship and Immigration Canada to organize and improve settlement services to newcomers, and currently with a number of organizations who wish to establish a community hub of services in the Flemingdon Park area. We continue to work with the Crescent Town Service Council to improve services to those living in Crescent Town while reducing the duplication of some types of services.
We have assisted a number of agencies with governance issues and have been a leader in supporting the continued existence of a food bank for the Flemingdon Park area.
Being active in the community allows us to learn more of the legal needs of our clients and also to be more familiar with the types of resources available to our clients.