Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Just another 'normal' day in Point Douglas

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We are volunteers in North Point Douglas. We have mobilized the community, and most of the crack dealers and gang types are gone. In so doing, we also have developed a wonderful network of caring people who call us when they have no one else to call.

On a recent, normal day, a 40-year-old woman with FASD was having serious problems and threatening to commit suicide. Chris and I had put up bail for her when she spent 20 days in remand for forgetting her court date and breaching her probation. She normally trusted us but she was so upset there was nothing we could do to calm her down. We finally convinced her to go to her mom's house. In spite of her being really angry, she did and phoned me to say she was at her mom's.

While I was talking her down, I went to the house. Her mom invited me in to see the mouse poop. They had been away for four days and came back to find mouse poop everywhere. All their cereal and boxed food was destroyed. The landlord had come and put out a bit of mouse poison but the place was so overrun that the mice just multiplied. The house was clean except for the mouse poop.

I noticed the tap was running. Mom said that the landlord refused to fix the tap unless she paid for it. She showed me the bathroom, where the flush on the toilet didn't work and the sink tap ran continually. Again this elderly woman had asked her landlord to fix these things and he refused.

Meanwhile, we discovered that the daughter had stolen a friend's pills. These included heart pills, which would be fatal if taken. We called everyone she knew but no one knew where she was. Someone said she had gone shopping. We searched the house but the pills weren't to be found.

Well, who do you call when someone has threatened suicide and has enough pills to kill herself and you don't know where she is?

The only people we knew who work 24/7 are the police. We called, very apologetically, recognizing that the police have serious crime issues to deal with but they are the only game in town. Most social service workers are home tucked into bed.

Mom was wondering what she could do. The police came. It was like a needle in a haystack. Where was the girl with enough pills to kill herself? We all hoped she wouldn't, but how would we live with ourselves if we did nothing and she took the pills?

While we were waiting for news I sent the information about the mouse poop to the Winnipeg bylaw enforcement department, one of the most effective government departments. We knew within days the landlord would be ordered to fix everything at this elderly woman's apartment.

Why do I care?

I think I owe it to my wonderful parents who took me to deliver Christmas hampers when I was 10.

Addendum: The next day the police found our potential suicide. She was fine. The medications were still missing. The bylaw inspector arrived immediately and the landlord was ordered to get rid of the mice and fix the plumbing.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2012 A10

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