Some of the highlights of the this year’s Renew project were engaging residents who had given up caring about their alleys which included reporting crime and observing traffic and garbage dumping in the alleys. Renew staff were told on a few occasions from these residents that their sense of pride and care was renewed and they would now monitor the traffic in their alleys to try and keep it clean. We had residents share that they felt we “were gifts from the creator” and “appeared like angels” as they were frustrated with their yards as they had no tools to cut the grass. We had many youth come and help with excitement and even had the youth go home and comment to a family friend of their parents that they did not want them over because they “would just mess the yard up all over again” which speaks volumes for the level of pride these children took in cleaning their yards/alley. Those same children had a trampoline in their yard the very next day after the waist high weeds had been cut!
The whole purpose of the work bee clean ups was to engage residents and renew their sense of pride in their environment as well as renewing North Central in the bigger picture of things. Residents from all walks of life came out to help and it allowed them to meet other neighbors as well as the youth. We had a great partnership with Rainbow Youth Centre’s (RYC) Road to Employment youth who expressed to Renew Staff as well as to RYC staff how good about themselves they felt after a day of doing alley clean ups (see attached letter of support). They came out almost every Wednesday all summer and many of the accomplishments Renew achieved can be directly attributed to their assistance as they worked hard and full of heart and spirit.
The City of Regina reported that they picked up an average of 50 hoppers per month which is their measurement with the older garbage truck. Although in one alley alone the workers estimated it to be 30 hoppers and that it took them 3 days to clear all of the garbage and branches we piled.
In addition to the work bee clean ups, we also participated in graffiti cleaning blitzes which consisted of painting over graffiti and removing tags from garbage bins. The area from the 600-1400 blocks (tracks to Dewdney Avenue) and all the way between Albert and Elphinstone Streets were completed for garbage bins and graffiti removal. Only a handful of blocks were completed on the other side of Elphinstone up to Lewvan Drive.
In these blitzes youth graffiti offenders, who will call J and E who came through the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan (JHSS), they had each worked 10 hours with the Renew Project doing alley clean ups. When they had another set of hours to complete they requested to JHSS to work with the Renew Project specifically which the JHSS coordinator expressed gratitude and appreciation for the Renew Project staff as well as the impact it had on these youth. In one blitz E and the coordinator were driving down an alley and he pointed out his tag which was quite old. The coordinator had E knock on the home owner’s door to introduce himself as the offender who vandalized her property. The lady was elderly and told the youth she had just painted over a tag when his appeared and she did not have the ability due to health or the funds to cover it again and so it sat there for over a year. E apologized and offered to cover it up immediately for her. He did and the lady expressed such a sincere appreciation for it.
These youth expressed a strong sentiment of remorse and understanding of the impact of their crimes. The biggest level of awareness for these youth came from the moments of being in the alleys painting. We would have all types of people approach us. People would approach us, question what we were doing, thank us for our work, and even sometimes would lecture the youth on completing their hours by working hard. Some of these people would also enquire about jobs doing what we were doing. The youth offenders both expressed complete shock and humbleness to have so many different types of people thank them. It was a matter of not being judged as well as breaking stereotypes to these youth and helped them see that even down and out people do not want their neighbourhood vandalized/abused. Conversations with these youth reflected their sense of awareness of the impact of their crimes to the victims as well as to the neighbourhood.
In addition to the work bee and the blitzes, Renew staff have been monitoring for re-tags. We have had approximately 20 re-tags the entire summer out of the entire area of the 600-1400 blocks from Elphinstone to Albert Street. Most of the re-tags were done by the same individual (s) as well. We would paint over the re-tags and as of today, there are only 9 re-tags remaining. There are approximately 30 graffiti tags on non-white surfaces that we chose not to paint over due to using white paint only.
Process of the Renew Project:
The process started off with delivering an introduction flyer to residents of targeted blocks notifying of when Renew Project staff would return to conduct a survey and solicit volunteers for the work bee. Renew Project staff would then return to conduct the survey and educate residents on the reporting process for graffiti as well as other NCCA programs. This was followed by conducting the work bee with community participation to pick up garbage, cover graffiti and perform minor yard work. After the work bee, staff would host a BBQ to encourage community engagement and communication.
The Renew project would like to thank the following people for their donations and support:
City of Regina, Rainbow Youth Centre, John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, RAMP, B&B Small Engine Sales & Service Company, Wendy Dumalski, General Paint, Colorburst Paint, James Morberg and Wendy Grant, Regina Police Service, Aids Programs South Saskatchewan, Go Green, Student Summer Works Program, McDonalds, 5th Avenue Convenience Store, and Roberta Pelletier (for the AMAZING BANNOCK). Most importantly, The Renew Project would like to thank all of the volunteers and especially the North Central Residents who came out and led by example in working towards a safer, cleaner community. It is the volunteers that made the difference, and we are forever thankful for the time given!