West End Winnipeggers map plans for 24-hour youth safe centre
Some people in Winnipeg’s West End want to set up an around-the-clock safe place for at-risk youth.
Jamil Mahmood, executive director of the Spence Neighbourhood Association, said community members want to make sure another death like Tina Fontaine's won't happen.
"And now we're facing big tragedies that are happening."
The body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River in August.
In the immediate days afterwards, police officers visited homes in the West End — Ellice Avenue, Furby Street and Langside Street, a neighbourhood Fontaine used to frequent — knocking on doors and engaging residents in the hopes of finding out more about the death of the girl.
A friend of Fontaine, who was one of the last people to see her, told CBC in September that the two girls were hanging out together on Ellice Avenue during the early morning hours of Aug. 9, when a man approached them and offered to pay Fontaine money to perform a sex act.
Katrina said Fontaine accepted the offer and told her she would be back in about 15 minutes. Fontaine never returned. Eight days later, her body was found in a bag in the river.
Safe place needed
Mahmood said a safe place is needed in the community for youth like Fontaine, who was a runaway, to go and feel safe, rather than spend their time on the streets.
“I've been speaking to a ton of grandmas and parents and older community members who have been doing this for years informally, taking kids into their house, taking their kids' friends in, taking their grandkids in, their grandkids' friends in," Mahmood said.
He wants an organized, around-the-clock location to be created for youth to go. To that end, volunteers met Wednesday at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre, on Langside Street, to discuss ways to get more people on board and map out needs of the youth and the community.
The group plans to meet again in November.
Mahmood said nothing less than 24-hour facility is needed.
"You can provide kids with everything they need, you can provide them with fancy gyms and stuff like that, but if they don't feel safe coming there, they don't have connections or relationships there, then it's kind of an empty vessel," he said.
"So what we want to do is we want to make sure those relationships are strong."