October 18, 2018
December 1, 2017
by: Tony Saxon
“We need to get some shit done.”
That was the exclamation point put on a town hall meeting Thursday night to discuss and address possible solutions to issues facing neighbourhoods just north of Downtown Guelph.
Saying it was Brendan Johnson, executive director of the Guelph Neighbourhood Coalition, one of several on a panel that listened for two hours to around 50 people from the Goldie Mill Park/Wolfond Park areas of Ward 2 discuss their concerns.
People wanted to know what they could do practically do about the issue of things such as drug use, loitering, noise complaints and illegal behaviour that is happening.
One of the potential answers that kept popping up was further community engagement, from interacting with the youth who seem to be a big part of the problem to forming an action group within the community that would help come up with potential solutions.
Names were taken at the end of the meeting and an action group appears to be in the works.
“You have been heard,” said Ward 2 councillor James Gordon, who hosted the meeting with fellow Ward 2 councillor Andy Van Hellemond.
“In my experience, neighbours usually have the best solutions,” Johnson said.
Most of Thursday’s two-hour town hall was focused on Wyndham House, a longstanding 16-bed emergency youth shelter on Norwich Street that area residents feel is a key part of the problem.
“The Goldie Mill area used to be a treasure,” said one man, who said he is afraid for his wife and daughter if they go out late at night in the area. “It’s important we have a higher expectation.”
Drug paraphernalia and use on their property, vandalism, loitering on porches, noise, theft and disrespectful behaviour were all detailed at length.
“These kids have free reign over the neighbourhood, and I find that very troubling,” said one man.
“I know we are a challenge for any neighbourhood we’re in,” said Debbie Bentley-Lauzon, executive director of Wyndham House. “These are young people with no place else to go… we are the last social safety net.
“We try to be the best neighbour we can and we don’t see it as ‘not our problem.'”
She said she is more than willing to host meetings with the community to address concerns and discuss possible solutions.
“What can I do in my neighbourhood when I’m afraid to be in my neighbourhood?” one man asked.
People seemed to support what Wyndham House was doing, just that it was in the wrong location.
“I love what you’re doing, but I think the location is poor,” said one neighbour.
“I think you guys do miracles on a shoestring budget… but there are times I feel scared,” said Adrienne Crowder, who heads the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy and also lives in the neighbourhood.
One woman suggested moving Wyndham House to the Ignatius Jesuit Centre just north of town.
Crowder said more programs are needed for youth to get them off the streets.
“If they had something better to do, I think they’d do it,” she said, adding that the young people who stay at Wyndham House should be involved in discussions.
“Where are they suppose to go? We offer them nowhere. As a city we can do better,” Crowder said.
Johnson concurred: “We are not doing a good job of providing engagement opportunities.”
Sgt. Arif Hasham of the Guelph Police said the force does have some resources available to community groups to help address concerns and said he would certainly be willing to be part of community engagement to help address the issue.This article was originally posted in the Guelph Today