In 1988, I had finally settled in the Broadway Assiniboine area of Winnipeg with my then two year old. This area is bounded by Broadway to the North, the Assiniboine River to the South, Osborne to the West and Main to the East.
This area was composed mostly of rental units at that time, though now many of those are condos (which may still be being rented, of course). From a traditional social work perspective, residents of this area would be considered to be transient, as in there were no homes to buy and they were likely students, young people starting their careers, single moms and dads, or seniors. They did not see living in this area as being the place they would stay for decades, and, since traditional community development of the day saw home ownership as the pinnacle of stability for a neighbourhood, that there were no homes to buy confirmed that this would be a problem area.
Well, those of us who lived there loved it. We saw wildlife, enjoyed the river and park, and got to know our neighbours. There were challenges, to be sure, but not insurmountable ones.
With the support of the St. Stephen’s-Broadway United Church, and a grant from the Province to hire me, we were able to build a team of people who redefined this area. People were not transient, they were perchers, looking for a nice place to live while they went through a transitory time in their lives.
In the four years or so that I was involved, we were successful in several efforts:
1. To organize neighbourhood events such as a planning session to address the risk of an arena just south of the Convention centre, which would have turned our community into a parking lot.
2. To bring the community together with a picnic to celebrate the area and its beautiful assets
3. To prevent the city from installing parking meters along its streets on the basis that it is a residential area of the city and meters don’t belong in front of homes. I see now that they have surrepticiously been brought in to the community and that residents were not given an opportunity to react before the decision was implemented. This effort involved another presentation to another room full of City Councillors by yours truly.
4. To prevent the cancellation of bus service to the area, and actually increase it. Service had been only during non-peak periods, meaning that those of us who relied on it often forgot that it was sometimes available at the stop in front of our homes, walking down to Broadway instead. In addressing our concern about the cancellation, Transit services realized that they could actually make the service more efficient by looping it through at all hours.
5. We worked to create safe haven for the sex trade workers in the area. Unfortunately we were not able to directly provide this in the church as we had hoped, but our concern for the people so involved I think led to some significant developments in other services.
What a wonderful group to have worked with. When I move through the area, I am proud to have had the opportunity to promote its beauty and feeling of community through these efforts.