Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Interview With A Social Worker

I was asked for an interview by a social work student regarding my thoughts on the North End.
This is what I said:

I make conscious decisions on what I will and will not say in my blog, .... I generally do not comment on illegal activities taking place on my street or in my area.
My blog tells only part of the story of my street. In some ways it paints a more negative picture, because I do not talk about positive things that happen as much as I talk about the negative. And in other ways it paints a quieter and safer picture because I don’t talk about illegal or suspicious activities taking place.
I also, from time to time, make statements that are not politically correct, because I feel things need to be talked about. Nothing will ever get better if we cannot talk about it.

Are you involved with any organizations within your neighborhood?
I was involved with several organizations. I was on the Stakeholders committee for the new garbage master plan at City Hall. I was vice-chair of St Johns Residents Association. I was involved with the Neighbour to Neighbour Safety Strategy, and with the new North End United group. I have been to a Seven Oaks Sentinals meeting at Gord Mackintosh’s office, and also participated in the combined COPP walks done with Gord Mackintosh. I have also worked with Ross Eadie in my efforts to better the North End of Winnipeg.
Since September of this year, I am no longer involved with any organization as I have found the City of Winnipeg is in no way interested in making the North End a better place. The organizations seem to be in place to placate the masses, spend tax payers money, and turn community volunteers into unpaid social workers. And we seem to just keep feeding people. Events seem to always include giving food to whoever shows up. We have become another level of soup kitchens in the city.

What do you feel the biggest issue is for the North End community? 
You will consider this to be a racist comment, which is actually the biggest issue we have.
The biggest issue in the North End, in my opinion, is the promotion of victimization. As long as those who do not take care of their houses (rental or owned), those becoming intoxicated in the streets or spilling their parties into the community, those committing crimes, and those buying and selling drugs continue to buy in to the belief that they are victims, they will remain victims. And as long as those who run the social programs promote the label of victim and provide advantages to those who are calling themselves victims, the victims will remain. As soon as we start demanding that people take responsibility for themselves, and their actions, we will begin to remove the victim label, and things will start to turn around.
Right now, many people are crying victim, staying on social assistance, pulling themselves down, carrying on the alcoholic lifestyle of their parents, and contributing to criminal behaviour that is pulling the North End down, and nobody is calling them on it. They can ride the victim train the rest of their lives because anyone who questions it would be called racist. And the social services agencies give power to the victimization label, protecting the rights of those who are labeled, or label themselves as victims.
People need to be held accountable for their actions, and they need to learn to make correct decisions. They need to learn to live within Societies norms and they need to respect the laws of the land. People will never be accountable for their actions if they are given the option of being a victim.
We had an extremely intoxicated woman take a baby out of a house where she was partying. She took the baby to the front sidewalk and began smashing the babies head on the sidewalk. She would have killed the baby if not stopped by a passer by. When in court, her defense was that she was a victim. She had a bad childhood. She was recognized as a victim and given a lesser sentence. How is that really helping her, the child she attacked, or society in general?

I've read a bit about the houses falling in on themselves, and garbage that does not get collected.. what about issues of violence, or gangs?
I would have to say my street in the North End has more violent acts on it than my street in Fort Rouge when I lived there. I have seen blood trails in my lane and on my front street. I have heard people screaming in, what I can only imagine as pain. I have heard domestic disturbances all too frequently and seen intoxicated individuals driving away in vehicles. Neighbours have been assaulted. ........ items removed ...
........ items removed ...
. Last fall a youth was caught by police on my street. He had a duffle bag full of guns and ammunition. At the end of my street a 15 yr old boy was stabbed to death just a few weeks ago. He was known to the police and likely a gang member. He died the next street over. A few blocks from me a man was shot in the head and died. He apparently was killed in relation to the 15 yr old boys death. Another kid was shot in the spring. It happened at a gang house the next street over. A couple of weeks ago we had two crime scenes on the street. Two separate houses had police cars and ambulances, each taking care of a person with stab wounds. The issues were likely related. ..... items removed ....... 
So yes, I would have to say there is violence and gang activity on my street.

Do you feel that police/local government do enough to help out?
I absolutely do not feel the Police and / or the local government are doing enough. I don’t envy the Police their jobs. It can’t be easy to do the work they do. But they are not doing enough.
It is hard to say if the Police are blocked by policies and procedures from removing criminals from the streets, or if they have become too jaded to act on issues they come across. I am not privy to the inner workings of the Police department, so I cannot say how they work. But I do know I was not able to get an intoxicated individual arrested for driving while intoxicated, smashing into a fence with his vehicle while driving intoxicated, attempted break in and damaging property a few months back. I have been told of several instances where police do not charge shoplifters who are caught with over $500 in inventory, and are turned loose. I see police continually returning to the same houses over and over again, not arresting anyone. I see crimes being committed over and over with no results. ........ items removed ...
Regarding police issues, civic, provincial and federal policies and laws need to be adjusted to allow police to take care of issues and remove criminals from the streets.
Regarding the civic government, there needs to be some form of attention paid to the North End  to enforce by-laws on the books. There should be pro-active by-law enforcement to bring the area up to basic standards instead of relying on complaints only. Even when citizens report by-law infractions, issues are not looked at in a timely manor. And when illegal dumping of garbage is reported, it is ignored. The by-laws department does not investigate reports and does not prosecute illegal dumpers.
Regarding the condition of housing stock in the North End, I have been told it would cause undue hardship on home owners to expect them to bring their houses up to reasonable standards and would affect low income citizens negatively to enforce by-laws regarding the condition of their houses.

How do you feel about the "helping profession" in your neighborhood? (Social Workers, etc)
Stop empowering bad behaviour.

Do you feel safe in your neighborhood?
In all honesty, it is very unlikely that I would be harmed in my neighbourhood. I am not involved in criminal activity, I do not sell drugs or buy drugs, and I am not out on the street in the middle of the night. But is the North End as safe as Fort Rouge, no. The North End is a more dangerous area to be in.

What do you feel are strengths of your community? (in terms of parks, or organizations)
This is a difficult question to answer. We have no banks, and only few gas stations, which are all located on Salter St. Local grocery stores are too expensive to use on a regular basis. The North End is an older neighbourhood, which should mean that people are able to walk everywhere they need to in order to make their purchases. In the North End, I generally drive wherever I am going. People in my area tend to do their shopping at the drug store and dollar store, and do their banking at the money mart.
When I lived in Fort Rouge, I walked everywhere, and was able to do so without problem.
I do not feel comfortable going to the park closest to me, being St Johns Park. I find the park often has intoxicated individuals under the influence of many different addictions. It is a beautiful park, but I do not feel safe being there alone at any time of day.

I do apologize for the negative attitude I have developed. However, I feel it is important to look at the North End in comparison to other areas of the city, instead of trying to find positive things to say about the North End on it’s own. We seem to have a need to downplay the negatives and overemphasize the positives in the North End, to try and convince ourselves that it is not so bad. But in reality, there are serious issues in the North End that are not being dealt with. We simply mask them with words that say it is not so bad.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quiet Times As Fall Sets In

The neighbourhood is slowing down now. There is not as much happening on the street with the changing of the weather.  This happens every year. We look forward to fall and winter, because those are the slow months, and the quiet times. I guess it also helps that I don't do my back lane walks anymore, or very seldom anyway. My husband still does the walks, and reports from time to time on police tape seen, hookers on corners, huge piles of garbage, and recently one very persistant person looking to buy some crack.
My view of my neighbourhood now is what I see from my house, and what I hear from my yard. There are still noises, but not as much. There are people screaming and yelling all night, but not as many. And now I am just closing the window and sticking my head under my pillow. And my husband moves to a quieter room in the house to sleep. We have joined the masses who ignore the fighting.
When driving through the neighbourhood, I still find myself looking for crime scenes or police presence as I turn the corner for home. It happened so often during the summer that it is almost odd to have no police presence. I am hoping that feeling will go away soon.
Besides the odd murder, and occasional stabbing, and the gun shot yesterday, things seem to be slowing down for the winter. Let's hope things continue to slow and we have a quiet winter.