The first site where the Synergie project took place was the HLM La Pépinière, located in the Mercier-Ouest district of Montreal. This social housing setting is comprised of 192 dwellings, including mainly two-storey buildings and a few town houses. The aim of this project was to increase participation level and to reach out to a variety of households to discuss the tenants’ perceptions of the strengths and needs for improving their residential environment.
La Pépinière, Montréal
The first site where the Synergie project took place was the HLM La Pépinière, located in the Mercier-Ouest district of Montreal. This social housing setting is comprised of 192 dwellings, including mainly two-storey buildings and a few town houses. The site brings together 176 households, including families and single people. On the site, the community organization Projet Harmonie provides a variety of services including a drop-in center for 2 to 5 year olds, homework help for students, a youth center and a recording studio for 10-17 year olds. They also offer urban agriculture, environmental workshops, an internet café with four computers and psychosocial and environmental intervention.
Familiarization with the Site
During the summer of 2018, a member of the research team (field worker) joined the activities organized by Projet Harmonie (eg: collective kitchen, walking activity, outing to the botanical garden, etc.) in order to familiarize with the site and start meeting with tenants. She organized thematic coffee meetings to discuss with tenants about their perceptions of the strengths and needs for improving their residential environment. At this time, there was only just a few tenants participating in the meetings (around four). This period spanned almost a year and highlighted the importance of developing trusting relationships with the tenants before starting the project.
Development of the Relationship with Tenants and Senior Leaders
Since we aimed to increase the participation level and to reach out to a variety of households, we held, in March 2019 the first official tenant preparation meeting that we called a “citizen café”, where we created conditions to insure participation of as many tenants as possible. The meetings took place at dinner time, on a week day. We offered a meal and provided a childcare/babysitting service. During these monthly meetings, around 30 tenants gathered each time to discuss their environment’s strengths and the problems that affected their health and well-being. They also prioritized the actions they wanted to discuss with senior leaders.
A first meeting took place between a small group of tenants and the senior leaders of the four sectors (city, housing, health and community) in April 2019. This meeting took place onsite and aimed to get to know each other in an informal setting. The tenants had the occasion to show their living environment to senior leaders and increase their awareness of certain issues they are facing in their daily life.
During the citizen cafes, tenants identified the key priorities they wanted to work on. During summer 2019, committees were formed to develop concrete actions to address these issues: journal committee, washer-dryer committee, parking committee, health committee, survey committee.
Example of Achievements: Journal La Pépinière
The objective of this committee was to produce an informative communication tool accessible to all tenants onsite. The mission of the committee, as defined by its members is: to provide a cultural gathering, open to all; to transmit important information in connection with the partner sectors; to make people aware of the problems of the community site encourage reading; to get young people to contribute to the project. The committee published 3 editions of the Journal La Pépinière. The Spring 2020 edition, could not be released due to the COVID pandemic.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
In March 2020, all activities and group meetings with the tenants were stopped in order to respect measures imposed by public health. The facilitation team maintained regular contact with all the tenants involved in the project by telephone. We could not maintain group activities at distance since most tenants have limited access to internet.