Central Edmonton: Public Spaces and Programs for Everyone

Residents of Edmonton’s inner city deserve to live a life that is as healthy and filled with opportunities as any other citizen enjoys. That’s why the Boyle Street Community Services Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program helps inner city community members learn about wellness and self-care as “part of everything we do,” says Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program coordinator, Rebecca Kaiser.

A 2017 Communities ChooseWell Providing Health Education Award winner, the Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program is a joint initiative of Boyle Street Community Services and the Bissell Centre connecting residents of Edmonton’s inner city – many of whom are dealing with issues such as poverty, mental illness, addiction and homelessness – to a wide range of recreation and wellness opportunities.

The Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program provides inner city residents with opportunities to be agents of growth in their own lives, with the goal of reducing barriers – whether those barriers are social or individual – and helping them access recreation and wellness services in Edmonton. Offering more than a dozen programs throughout the year, the Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program makes it a priority to help inner city community members access a wide range of health and wellness opportunities and make healthy community connections. Here are some of the programs it offers:

  • Friday Floor Hockey
  • Drop-in Soccer
  • Street Prints Artist Collective
  • Underground City Youth Music Project
  • Collective Kitchen
  • Women’s Wellness Program

Lady Flower Gardens – Community members volunteer to harvest food for the Edmonton Food Bank, learn about food security, and take home fresh produce for themselves.

Sunday Skating

Youth Snowboarding

Visits to City of Edmonton attractions and to Elk Island National Park

Equine-assisted therapy

New programs introduced in 2017 include the Boyle Street Football Club, which is part of the Edmonton Sport and Social Club Recreational League. Boyle Street Football Club participants play a major role in coaching and managing the team.

In another program, the Inner City Recreation Women’s Wellness Program has partnered with Wise Warrior Athletics to deliver a women’s wellness self defense program, which Kaiser wants to see offered on an ongoing basis.

The program provides inner city residents with a wide range of opportunities to participate in the community, for example, through volunteering and peer mentorship, giving them a sense of purpose, connection, and motivation to contribute to society. Through health education, the program helps community members to become positive agents for change in their own lives, and in the lives of others.

The program assists community members in connecting to recreational and physical activity options, such as by helping them to apply for City of Edmonton Leisure Access Passes. As Kaiser notes: “These spaces are public spaces for everyone.”

As she looks forward into the future, Kaiser would like to see a city where all citizens enjoy good access to wellness services, such as recreational facilities. She would like see the Boyle Street Community Services Inner City Recreation and Wellness program grow in its capacity to offer more programs for inner city residents.

In the long-term, she envisions a future where “we wouldn’t need program like this one – where everyone would be equal.”

By Anna Holtby (2017)