On March 31, neighbours of Leonard Street in Victoria, BC welcomed the newest addition to their block: a shared emergency supply bench. The bench was envisioned months ago by the Building Resilient Neighbourhoods initiative and local neighbours as a gathering spot to interact and connect, while enhancing emergency preparedness by storing shared emergency supplies. In collaboration with other local organizations, the idea grew into the Leonard Street Neighbour Hub.
The bench design reflects the unique character and needs of the street. Within the bench is an internal storage compartment accessible only by neighbours, which contains supplies such as a first aid kit and water purification equipment. The bench also provides residents with solar powered outlets to charge their phones off the grid and a community bulletin board to share information. Both are accessible on a day-to-day basis and in the case of an emergency such as a power outage.
“The bench is multifunctional, acting as a spot to hang out but also showcasing resources like solar panels and the emergency supplies stashed inside. We hope that through its design, the Neighbour Hub prompts proactive behaviour including making emergency plans with neighbours and loved ones,” said Leah Karlberg, community development lead at Neighbour Lab, the local planning and design studio that led the bench design process.
“We couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming and enthusiastic neighbourhood with which to build our first Neighbour Hub,” said Emi Webb, Neighbour Lab’s creative director, “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. By co-creating these unique structures with residents, we hope to make emergency preparedness more tangible, more playful.”
The creation of this Neighbour Hub involved a number of local organizations working together. The project was initiated and led by SHIFT Collaborative’s Building Resilient Neighbourhoods project, supported by the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, designed by Neighbour Lab, and funded by the City of Victoria’s “My Great Neighbourhood” grant program, with emergency supplies provided by the City’s Victoria Ready program.