I Heart the North End: Town hall talks strength, support for Winnipeg neighbourhood
Monday evening meeting at Gonzaga Middle School the latest in a series that started in March
A group of North End Winnipeg residents and leaders came together Monday, for the latest in a series of town halls to strengthen the neighbourhood, after a year that saw some community groups shuttered or struggling.
"It has not been the North End's best year," said Kyle Mason, the federal NDP candidate for Winnipeg North and an organizer of the I Heart the North End town hall series.
"But you know, the North End is a wonderful place. It's filled with a lot of amazing people that want the best for the neighbourhood, for themselves, for their family and for the city as a whole."
Roughly 20 people met at Gonzaga Middle School for the meeting Monday, which ran from 6 to 8 p.m. It was the sixth similar community gathering in a series that started on March 1, and Mason said each meeting has been different.
"We're here to say, 'Let's have a conversation as a community, and let's figure out some things together,'" he said.
"It's an open-ended conversation, but I have no doubt by the time it's over that there will be some consistent themes, some ideas."
On Monday, the group covered a range of ideas from resurrecting a beloved street fair on Selkirk Avenue to putting together a directory of North End safe spaces and community resources to make them easier to find.
Residents heard from community leaders including Mason, event co-organizers and Michael Redhead Champagne and Samantha Silvester, and Diane Redsky, executive director of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Inc.
Mason said one of his priorities is connecting community groups in the area.
"Even just to come and gather to see there are other people like you, that think like you, that care about the same things as you — you don't feel as alone," he said.
"It's also a chance to go around and see the neighbourhood and kind of say, 'Hey, these are good things that are happening.' … Because the North End could do amazing things."
'The community here is really amazing'
Some of the North End's community spaces have struggled in recent months. The Circle of Life Thunderbird House on Main Street has worked through ongoing financial issues, while the North End Family Centre and the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre both closed last year.
Sharon Johnson, one of the attendees at the town hall and a member of the Point Douglas Residents Committee, said the closures and funding cuts make it even more important for the community groups to work together.
"I think a lot of it has to do with connecting the groups together, which is why we're all here tonight," said Johnson, who also volunteers with the North End Women's Centre.
She said she loves the North End because of the passion and pride in the community.
"There's a lot of activist roots in the North End, so there's a legacy of that here, of, like, fighting together for the same goals," she said. "I think that really runs deep and I think a lot of the people who live here really adhere to those values still, and that's what connects us."
Another member of the Point Douglas Residents Committee, Catherine Flynn, said she's fed up with negative media coverage about the neighbourhood.
"I think people have a perception about what the North End is, because we get so much bad press, but what we don't get is a lot of good press. And I think people need to understand that the community here is really amazing," she said. "There's a lot of artists, a lot of teachers, a lot of really interesting people, and we're not just crime statistics."
Another participant, Melissa Chung, said she appreciates the energy and leadership of young people in the neighbourhood working to make it better.
"It makes me really proud to be part of the community, and I think that there are a lot of things that definitely need to be given a lot of attention, from poverty to addictions to everything that goes along with that," she said. "I just want to be part of making this a great place for everyone."