Another drip in the kitchen sink

(Underground Gym website)

A Thunder Bay-based charity that provides recreation and other aid programs for at-risk youth could be coming soon to one of Winnipeg’s hardest areas.

The Underground Gym and Youth Centre is asking the city for “$83,200.00 to assist with operating costs associated with community development and recreation programs to serve the needs of youths at risk at a gym and youth centre which the Centre wishes to establish in Winnipeg.”

(Google maps)

The centre would be located at 431-435 Selkirk Avenue. In the picture, it looks as if it would be the buildings right next to the food mart.

Guided by the motto: “Once a member, always a member,” the organizers say they provide “free access to multiple activities for youth in need” ages 4-17. The Ontario location is co-ed.

Unlike the incoming multi-million dollar Youth for Christ centre that is set to open at Main and Higgins, The organizers don’t appear to have an ideological or religious bent.

(Letter to city from Peter Panetta)

With a track record stretching back to 1999 in Thunder Bay, the director, Peter Panetta says they’ve had great success keeping kids from “the wrong path.” (see attached letter).

All I can say is this: if the organization checks out, it’s another drip in the “kitchen sink” philosophy for crime prevention a famous local blogger has written about much more eloquently than I could.

The city will make an initial decision on whether to give the group its ask on Nov. 23.

Why aren’t more local agencies trying to do this in this area? I’d imagine it would be more the merrier.

I’ve put a message in to speak with Panetta. We’ll see if he calls back.

[UPDATE] He did call back. Seemed like a fairly no-nonsense, straight shooting guy:

Panetta tells me he’s a boxing coach who works for Canada Post full time in Thunder Bay. The Winnipeg facility will be run by his adult kids, he says.

It’s non-denominational and non-profit, he said.

“I’ve never taken a penny for what I’m doing,” Panetta said.

Interesting how in this article he talks about the financial challenges he faces in Ontario — and how Winnipeg’s problems are migrating there.

Tells me his relationship with city hall in TB has had its “ups and downs,” which got sorted out when he found private funding.

Interestingly, he tells me, the genesis of the idea for the Winnipeg gym stemmed from Winnipeg kids filtering into the centre in TB who would talk about the area.

I asked him if he had much experience or knowledge about the Selkirk Avenue area, and he admitted the entrenched gang problems in the North End have been raised with him.

“The gangs … it will be a challenge, do doubt — but once the concept takes hold, it should be OK.”

Says the TB centre is in a rougher area but admits its not the same as what he’s heard about the 204.

“We’re not as hard core as Winnipeg,” he said.

He’s coming to Winnipeg on Monday to prepare for the Tuesday meeting. Says he’s spoken “indirectly” to Sam Katz about the proposal. Katz seemed “all for it,” he said, but says he’s committed to following proper process to try and get the grant.

Simpleton math (I have no head for numbers)

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the city approves the gym’s $83,200 and sets up shop in the North End and begins working with kids. How much of a savings would that represent to the criminal justice system just in terms of wages paid to police, prosecutors etc?

Assuming the gym keeps 25 kids from committing a crime for which they’re arrested and not diverted away from the system, ultimately convicted and given a probation order:

(Yes, I know. I'm no economist or statistician. Just a dumb reporter)

Here’s what I come up with (in graph).

Just preventing 25 kids from committing 1 mildly serious crime — say it’s a theft under charge or whatever — “saves” $27,150.

If it’s 100 kids? More than $108,000.

Now, I realize this is simplistic because in reality the savings aren’t seen in real dollars, but it’s worth considering.


‘Known to police’

All photos City of Winnipeg

It looks as if one of the city’s most notoriously violent rooming houses goes under the microscope — or something like it — on Monday.

In the last three years, I’ve been at 624-626 Balmoral St. more times than I can count on both hands. Not to buy crack, but to take in the latest (usually drug-fuelled) mayhem du jour there.

Usually the headline looks something like this:

Man shot at violent Winnipeg rooming house

And then the lede:

A 27-year-old man is in critical condition after being shot at a notoriously violent rooming house in Winnipeg early Wednesday morning.

You could wallpaper the entire place with the amount of police tape that’s been used there in the past little while. But, judging from the pictures above, the decor is not exactly top-of-mind for the owner or people who have lived there over the years.

[UPDATE: Here at this link is a TV piece by CBC Manitoba’s crime reporter Gosia Sawicka. Money quote regarding the former owner: “Things weren’t changing so he gave up.”]

2 homicides in just over a year

In the span of just a couple of months in 2008-09, two people were killed at the rooming house. I may have lost count of the other episodes of mayhem, but here’s the quick rundown of the homicides. If I’m not mistaken, there was another not too long ago. Just can’t quite remember it.

On Nov. 8, 2008, Philip Mayur was stabbed to death on the second floor. The 39-year-old man had arrived in Canada from Africa in the late ’90s and made his way from Ontario to Winnipeg. Media reports said Mayur was the father of four children.

On Dec. 4, police announced the arrest of two men in connection to Mayur’s death. The suspects, aged 26 and 42, were charged with first-degree murder, meaning police believe the killing was planned and premeditated. Their cases are still before the courts.

Last January, Valerie Paypompee, 36, was fatally stabbed in a suite on the second floor of the building. Police allege her boyfriend killed her during a domestic dispute. Paypompee, who was from Shoal Lake, Ont., was Winnipeg’s second homicide of 2009.

Mulugeta Geddy Gillamichael, 34, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death. Gillamichael, originally from Ethiopia, was committed to stand trial in Court of Queen’s Bench in November, but no trial dates have been set.


City inspectors finally got a clue or a tip that something was wrong there, went in on Sept. 22 and found — gasp! — major structural problems with the place. They’re threatening to sue or even have it closed down under the livability bylaw:

The specific Order stated:

• 624 – Head clearance on the west side stairs leading to the 2nd floor is 171 cm • 626 – 3rd floor stairwell head clearance is 158 cm • 626 – 2nd floor stairwell’s head clearance is 165 cm

1. Section 50(c) – Ensure that the stairways have a minimum head room of at least 195 cm, measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosing.

• 626 – 3rd floor stairwell is 27 cm wide

2. Section 52(1)(b) – Ensure habitable rooms in attics or partial storeys will have stairways leading to the dwelling must be at least 75 cm wide and must not be inclined to an angle of more than 50 degrees from horizontal and must be provided with a minimum clearance height of 180 cm measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosing.

Compliance date: November 5, 2010

The owners are appealing [the work was to be done by Nov. 5] and will have to appear in front of Gord Steeves and the other members of the city’s protection and community services committee to voice their objection and ask for more time.

In a letter notifying the city of his appeal the owner says he’s owned the building less than a year and has been hamstrung by debt to pay for repairs. He does, however, say he’s hoping to save enough to install cameras that will somehow help residents and neighbours feel safer.

Give him a year, he says, and he’ll be “more open to considering” doing such major structural work.

At the end of the day, however, what would probably make everyone feel safer is if the poor souls inside were cleared out and the entire block was bulldozed.

Here’s hoping that’s what Steeves et al. decide to do.

We should be ashamed that people are even allowed to go within 10 feet of the entranceways given what’s gone on there over the years.

Mynarksi, polling results by station

The Katz-supporting and well-spoken Jenny Motkaluk is defeated by Ross Eadie just days after a triple shooting in the crime-troubled area.

Interesting that in the Mynarski area hardest hit by crime, Motkaluk took her only polling victory at Children of the Earth School.

I guess the parts of the ward where Eadie really cleaned up are “not a crime disaster” as he famously said of the area not long ago.

Motkaluk also took the seniors vote in the advance polls.

Greg Littlejohn also seems to have run a fairly well-recieved campaign.

Elmwood-East-Kildonan, station by station

We now have our first former NHL’er as city councillor (I believe).

Wow. What a race — this one, more than any others likely peeved the NDP off completely.

Still, I’m glad Giesbrecht had the courage to run. He did rather well under the circumstances, judging by the results.

[Note: please forgive the placement of the ‘Jet’ between Talbot and Nairn – it’s the advance results (which Steen narrowly took) and I had to put it somewhere…]

St. Vital, polling station by station

Will Gord Steeves run for mayor in 2014?

His entrenched support seems to indicate he’d do very well in his own backyard.

One note: Although Steeves ran away with this election, It must be noted that Wolbert’s support near the Glenlawn polling station was on the higher side.

Or, conversely, Steeves support was strangely flat.

Maybe a walk around the area is in order…

‘Work to do’ + ‘right direction’

“I think you have to look at what we are doing…We have LiveSafe programs, we have SPIN [?] programs … we have more young people participating in sports to make sure they’re off the streets. Uh, we’re working with the WPS. We’ve just added a police helicopter to, you, know, fight crime. We just added a cadet program…

“And as a matter of fact, we’re no longer uhh, the uhh, how they used to say it – the auto theft capital of Canada. So it just goes to show that some of the programs we’ve implemented are working, but by the same token, we still have a great deal of work to do, but we certainly are moving in the right direction.”

—-Mayor Sam Katz responding to criminologist Rick Linden’s assertion the city needs to do more about crime prevention in the wake of a large rise in violent crime severity reported by the WPS in 2009.

‘Work to do’

“I know it’s not going to be easy. I know we have a lot of work to do” Katz, Jan 2, 2004, Winnipeg Sun.

“We have some hard work to do here at City Hall.” Katz, Mar. 27, 2005, Winnipeg Sun.

“People have to realize that as the mayor, you have a lot of work to do every day.” Katz, Aug. 4, 2006. Sun.

“We still have a lot of work to do, there’s no question about that…”Katz,  Feb 29, 2008. WFP

“You’ve got Higgins, you have the Louise Bridge, you have the Disraeli. We have so much work to do and unfortunately we were never given the opportunity — and they’re all linked together.” Katz, June 24, 2008. WFP

“The bottom line for me as mayor is that we have work to do.” Katz, Mar. 6, 2009. WFP

“We still have much more work to do.” Katz, July 22, 2009

“We have a lot of work to do in organics and recycling, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.” Katz, Feb, 18, 2010.

‘Right direction’

“…our downtown is moving in the right direction.” Katz, June 26. 2004 WFP

“I believe that rapid transit will be yet another positive step in the right direction to further revitalize downtown…” Katz, July 12, 2004 [in a 2003 letter to then-mayor Glen Murray.] WFP

“It’s a step in the right direction.” Katz, Nov. 23 2004. WFP

“… very small half-steps in the right direction” Katz, May 17, 2005 WFP

“If you’re heading in the right direction — keep walking.” Nov. 19, 2005 WFP

“We are still facing a $1-billion infrastructure deficit, but we are moving in the right direction.” Katz [self-authored Winnipeg Sun column] Dec. 24, 2005

“That’s also in the right direction…But at least we know we’re in the right direction,” Katz, Dec. 31, 2005, Winnipeg Sun.

“Today’s groundbreaking of the Strand is another step in the right direction.” Katz, April 11, 2006 WFP

“We’re moving in the right direction. We need to do more.” June 6, 2006 Winnipeg Sun

“Will it stop street racing in our city? Probably not entirely. But it is moving in the right direction.” Katz, June 9, 2006. WFP

“Last year’s budget increase was “a positive step in the right direction while trying to balance competing priorities with limited financial resources,” a spokesman for the mayor said.” Katz [via spokesman] Sept. 26, 2006. WFP

“There are a lot of steps going in the right direction,” Katz spokesman Salyn March 14, 2007.  WFP

“We’re going in the right direction. Before, we were going nowhere,” Katz, Mar. 14, 2007. Winnipeg Sun

“There’s so much more to do,” he said. “It just gratifying that others acknowledge we’re moving in the right direction.” Katz, Mar 21 2007 WFP

“I believed I could build consensus among council and get our city moving in the right direction. This budget shows we can accomplish this.” Katz, March 25, 2007, Winnipeg Sun column.

“Winnipeggers gave me a strong mandate to get Winnipeg moving in the right direction.” June 24, 2007, Sun column.

“There’s no secret we need change. We just want to make sure we change in the right direction.” Katz, Sept. 27, 2007 WFP

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Katz, Feb 18, 2010 WFP