Community shaken after multiple shootings in Weston neighbourhood
Weston area saw 3 shootings in past week involving 8 victims
Members of Toronto's Weston community say they're shaken following three shootings in the neighbourhood in the past week.
"People are just on their toes," said Shochoy Fray, youth program coordinator at the Weston Frontlines Centre on Weston Road south of Lawrence Avenue West. He works with young people to build a safe space where they can learn life skills and develop into leaders.
Fray, 24, whose own cousin died in a shooting last month, says violence is getting too close to places young people normally see as safe.
"It's harder for them to get away from it," he said.
Fray sees people in the community are more vigilant, rushing from place to place and not wanting to linger. It's disheartening when people are supposed to be in a safe zone, he says, and "you can't really feel safe in that area."
On Wednesday two people with handguns opened fire in an apartment building hallway, injuring five teenagers on Clearview Heights near Trethewey Drive.
And on Thursday morning, a 29-year-old man was seriously wounded in another shooting about 2.5 kilometres away.
Early Wednesday, a man and a woman were also badly injured when two suspects shot "indiscriminately" into a home on Conron Place, near Weston Road.
Shootings have been on the rise in northwest Toronto. Across three police divisions there have been 140 incidents involving firearms so far this year, killing 16 people and injuring 72.
"It's guns; what are we going to do?" said one 15-year-old in the neighbourhood.
"It's just an everyday thing now."
Weston is a wonderful neighbourhood, Fray says, with so many bright young minds who have a lot of potential
But Fray says it's disheartening that youths have to stay inside because of violence, or get looked down upon because of where they live.
Fray believes violence is getting more consistent in the area — and closer to home.
"It's a lot for them," he said. "It forces them to grow up quicker than they have to."
At the Jane Street Hub, on Jane Street south of Lawrence Avenue West, the hours for walk-in counselling and youth programming have been extended in the wake of the recent violence. The Thursday morning shooting happened in the Hub's parking lot.
"People are feeling really traumatized," said David O'Brien with Yorktown Family Services. "Some of them are re-traumatized, because this isn't the first time, unfortunately,"
O'Brien said they work with children as young as six to give them alternatives to violence.
The violence hits close to home for Stachen Frederick, executive director at Frontlines.
At a meeting on Wednesday, she saw someone get the call that a relative had been injured.
"More and more youth are becoming fearful of living in this community," Frederick said.
They try to engage children as young as six at Frontlines, with youth programming ranging from homework help to fitness and cooking classes. About 460 young people come through their doors a year.
Frederick says there needs to be more effort from all levels of government and more funding so places like Frontlines can be open later and offer more to young people.
She also says there's a lack of spaces for young people in the community.
Frederick believes there also needs to be a focus on listening to young people, so they can be empowered in their own community.
These shootings should be a wake-up call "that we have to start working together," she said.
"I just really hope that people wake up to what's happening in our community."