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This article was published 20/3/2020 (620 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Now that Elmwood’s community patrol has the official backing of the Bear Clan, organizers are hoping its reach will grow.
"We’ve had three iterations of street patrols in the past, but they didn’t work out, for whatever reasons," explained Chris Mott, Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation executive director, who identified ‘safety’ as one of the principle concerns of area residents.
In October 2019, CNRC and other community stakeholders held a public meeting to gauge the interest in launching a new street patrol program.
"People were asking why we didn’t have a Bear Clan," Mott said.
Originally formed in the North End in 1992, the Bear Clan returned to the streets after an extended hiatus in 2015. Official groups now regularly patrol the North End, West End, West Broadway and North Point Douglas neighbourhoods. According to their website, Bear Clan’s mission is to "provide restoration and maintenance of harmony within the community by promoting and providing safety; conflict resolution; mobile witnessing and crime prevention; maintaining a visible presence on the streets; providing an early response to situations; as well as providing rides, escorts and referrals."
On Nov. 6, 2019, Bear Clan’s James Favel spoke about the organization’s principles and model at a public meeting at 180 Poplar Ave. with 116 people attending.
"We’ve been accepted and patched over," Mott said. "The Bear Clan model is what we wanted (because) it focuses on people."
The Elmwood group made its first patrol on Dec. 6. Since then, patrols ranging from approximately six to 12 volunteers have gone out on Tuesday and Saturday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. Thanks to a number of City grants, the group purchased safety vests, gloves and other gear.
"We’re trying to make contact with people, see if they need assistance," Mott said. "We’re also looking for hazards. We’ve found some needles; we’ve found things that could be harmful to kids or pets. Our view is, if it’s a hazard, we want to keep an eye on it. Anything dangerous, like glass or needles, we pick up. We go into playgrounds to look for needles. I’m hopeful we can mitigate a lot of that stuff."
John King, a lifelong Elmwood resident, has been volunteering with the patrol group since it launched in December.
"It’s about giving back to the community, taking pride in the community," King, who worked with youth in crisis before retiring, said. "We’re just trying to help people."
To date, the group has patrolled almost every corner of Elmwood. Provided more people volunteer, the patrol will make more regular forays into East Elmwood.
"The interest is there, but we’re trying to get more interest," Mott said. "It’s a process."
"It’s a way to meet your community, make friends, and feel good about contributing to the neighbourhood," King said. "It’s about nine kilometres a night, and that’s all good too, great exercise."
Throughout their early patrols, the Elmwood group remained in constant communication with the Bear Clan. Earlier this month, the group officially joined the Bear Clan. On March 17, the Elmwood chapter was joined by Bear Clan members from the North End and West Broadway on their patrol.
"It’s a really exciting time to be involved in this," King said, before the patrol. "It’s good to have something like this in Elmwood. We’ve had so much taken away from us."
Anyone interested in taking part in Elmwood Bear Clan patrols is encouraged to come on down to 180 Poplar Ave. any Tuesday or Saturday evening by 5:45 p.m. Mott said there is some paperwork to be completed, and a waiver signed.
"Hopefully we get more people, with the nice weather, who want to come out for a nice walk and meet some people who want to do good for the neighbourhood," King said.
During the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, patrols will still be taking to streets as planned for as long as they can. However, volunteers who feel sick or are at risk are asked to stay home.
Visit www.bearclanpatrol.org for more information.
Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112