If an emergency hits Victoria, Fairfield residents near Leonard Street will have a set meeting place, where they have a secret code to unlock a metal box filled with emergency supplies including tarps, blankets, first aid, a flashlight and more.
A unique cedar structure and bench constructed near the corner of Leonard and Cambridge Street is Victoria’s first ever ‘Neighbour Hub’ where emergency supplies are stored and local neighbours are encouraged to interact and connect.
On Sunday, organizers cut the ribbon on the hub and showed of its multi-purpose design, which includes a solar-powered phone charging station, bulletin board and full-sized bench.
“There is a huge need for communities to come together and prepare now so they can better respond to threats such as earthquakes and extreme weather in the future,” said Emi Webb, Neighbour Lab’s creative director. “By co-creating these unique structures with residents, we hope to make emergency preparedness more tangible, more playful.”
Stacy Barter, learning and community engagement specialist at Building Resilient Neighbourhoods said the project brings together two missions: increasing neighbour-to-neighbour interactions and improving emergency preparedness.
“This design has really been customized for this particular neighborhood,” she said. “And so it might look different in a different neighborhood, you might choose different features that the neighbours’ really want.”
“But this basic concept, we think, could be really beneficial to a lot of places. So we’re interested in exploring that more – this is our prototype.”
Bob McKechnie helped to plan the new Leonard Street Neighbour Hub, which stores emergency supplies and acts as a community meeting location. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Created via a partnership between Building Resilient Neighbourhoods, Neighbour Lab and a group of local residents, the hub was made possible by help from city grants and took about eight months to come to fruition.
Bob McKechnie, a Leonard Street resident and member of the local Block Watch program, helped come up with the idea – although he said at first, it was nothing more than the a box or can that held emergency supplies.
“Then we found out about the idea of getting designers involved and making a community hub out of it,” he said. “The number one thing that keeps you safe is each other. Knowing each other, having some trust built up, knowing each other’s names… so that there’s actually some community connection.”
The emergency supplies stored in the bench aren’t enough for the entire neighbourhood, but will act as a supplement to what each person should already have in their home, McKechnie added.
“It’s a place to meet with a few essentials, but we hope most homes will be prepared.”