Victoria community unveils ’emergency bench’ to help bring neighbours together

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‘Emergency bench’ unveiled in Victoria
WATCH: People living in a Victoria community have a unique approach to dealing with spats in their neighbourhood.Grace Ke has more on the "emergency bench" and the importance of being neighbourly – Mar 31, 2019

A Victoria neighbourhood became a little safer Sunday with the unveiling of a shared “emergency bench.”

The bench, which is being dubbed the Leonard Street Neighbour Hub, was designed to hold shared emergency supplies inside while also serving as a gathering spot for neighbours on Leonard Street in the city’s Fairfield neighbourhood.

The group behind the project, a collective known as Building Resilient Neighbourhoods, said the goal is to create something to which other neighbourhoods can aspire.

“It’s about bringing neighbours together to work together on projects and emergency preparedness by creating a great public space,” Stacy Barter, a member of the collective, said.

Neighbours indeed came together to put the finishing touches on the bench, which also features solar-powered outlets to charge phones and a community bulletin board.

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The storage unit inside the bench includes a first aid kit and water purification equipment and is only accessible to residents in the neighbourhood.

To design the bench, the group turned to Neighbour Lab, a design and planning studio based in Vancouver. The company came back with an L-shaped bench intended to make conversations between neighbours easier.

“We hope this acts as a testament to this neighbourhood’s yearning to be prepared, and other neighbours see what has been done and want to implement one in their neighbourhood,” Neighbour Lab’s creative director Emi Webb said.

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The project was funded by a City of Victoria grant program, with the city also providing the emergency supplies.

But the designers and artists who laid the groundwork for the bench said the neighbourhood has already added enough touches to make it their own — which is just what they intended.

“The community has been great to work with over the past couple of days,” Trent Rucker with Neolithic Studio said. “They pitched in more than I could have imagined, and without their help, it would not have been completed.”

—With files from Grace Ke

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