Canada West foundation report highlights Winnipeg Initiative for a safer tomorrow

The latest report delivered by Canada West Foundation’s Core Challenges Initiative has recently named the North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC) as one of the many inner city establishments in Western Canada fighting against social issues in urban centers.

Written by Dr. Jacky Sieppert, the associate dean of academic in the faculty of social work at the University of Calgary, the purpose of the report is to bring to the light the reality of those who live on the streets.

Two other purposes of the report are creating guidelines to improve life on the street as well as informing the organizations who work to accomplish these improvements. The report has listed four pillars that are essential to achieving the Foundation’s goals.

The first is “harm reduction,” which aims to reduce self-harm such as drug addiction. The second is “housing first,” a service that provides citizens with the lowest income furnished housing. The third, “community justice,” includes the community to enhance their quality of life and to prevent crime. And the final pillar, “community ownership,” requires communities to put their members at the center of the decision making for improving their community.

“I consider them a package that can be used in a variety of ways to come up with a more integrated and more creative responsive to social issues,” said Sieppert.

“Most of our cities have a whole collection [ . . . ] of agencies and people that respond to street level social issues, but we don’t really coordinate, integrate or do things together. I wanted to start a debate on how to do that better in a more integrated and comprehensive way,” he continued.

One of Winnipeg’s own agencies trying to improve life on Winnipeg’s streets is NECRC, located on Selkirk and founded in 1998. The agency is constantly promoting renewal of the Winnipeg’s North End.
Made up of local representatives and organizations, the organization’s board of directors oversees, among other things, departments that give community residents employment and social housing units in the Lord Selkirk Park Development.

The organization has established a five-year community plan, ranging from 2006-11. The plan features seven pillars, very similar to Sieppert’s four pillar plan. Robert Neufeld, NECRC’s executive director, makes it clear that increasing work in the community is a high priority.

“In our employment program we are working in the inner city and we have the building construction maintenance program and it’s a partnership between the community, the Manitoba housing authority and our organization,” said Neufeld.

“We provide the labor to renew social housing programs,” he continued. “And that means local employment, it means keeping those salaries in the neighborhood, people buying money in the neighborhood. Rather than having an outside company coming in and providing the labor we are hiring locally,” explained Neufeld.

There is a wide range of services provided by the NECRC. Included is the Path Resource Center, which offers its clients working opportunities and career assessments, and the Lord Selkirk Park Resource Center which features various workshops, an educational centre and counseling.

The organization also hosts community outreach events including Picnic In The Park at Assiniboine Park which had over 15,000 attendees in 2008.

When doing research on his report Shieppert observed that the NECRC used an “old community economic development model, which is in itself very integrated in its approach.” He continued, “[ . . . ] It takes the old model but it does it with a new energy
[ . . . ]. The corporation identifies affordable housing within a community as a pretty critical part of what it does.”

Concerning street crimes, the Winnipeg Police Service are working to improve on matters that plague the city. In a written statement to the Manitoban, Sgt. Bonnie Emerson, the Winnipeg Police Service’s acting public information officer, says, “Street crime is a part of this but can encompass a number of things. This includes violent crimes, property crimes and organized crimes.”

“Our Diversity Unit, of which I am a part, liaises with a number of communities within Winnipeg to forge positive relationships and understandings. [ . . . ] This is but a small part of what we do,” Emerson said. “We need community support to do this.”