Week 14 assignment Community Reflection: Windshield Survey
Introduction to Community Social Work
“The Red Nation will rise again after suffering beyond suffering, and it will be a blessing to a sick world.” A world filled with broken promises, selfishness, and divisions. A world yearning for light.”
The following is a Windshield Survey of a Winnipeg neighborhood. I chose a low-income neighborhood that could be described as Winnipeg’s “ghetto.” I did this for several reasons: first, it is a community in need of social workers’ attention; second, it is a densely populated Indigenous area (as am I); and third, there are ongoing and new opportunities for assistance in this area. I’ll drive through the area with no set agenda, my only goal being to be as objective as possible. As suggested in the class notes, I had a partner drive while I observed and took notes. My father, a retired police officer, drove me. Because he was so familiar with the area and its people, he helped me notice a few things that I might not have noticed otherwise.
Windshield Inspection Housing
There are almost no new buildings or businesses opening in the area, and what is there appears “forgotten.” The city does its best to keep it “pretty” by supplying floral pots in the summer and Christmas lights in the winter, but not to the extent that other areas of the same city do. The houses that are occupied appear to be old and neglected. Front yards are littered with garbage, broken toys, and even car parts. The houses are mostly small one-story bungalows, but there are a few larger older homes. These larger ones have been converted to duplexes, and from the outside, it appears that many people live there. Many yards have long grass, and some appear to have barely been mowed all summer. I don’t see any gardens, but they could be in the backyard. I believe I only saw one brand-new house. The rest were very old, mostly small, and in need of paint and other cosmetic work. Some of the buildings were boarded up or had broken windows. I noticed sheets and clothes hanging out to dry, as well as flags in the windows. There were a lot of flags with the cannabis weed symbol on them.
Along the way, there are run-down motels, a lot of vendors, a lot of gas stations, a lot of pawn shops in the city, and thrift stores. Many shops appear to be empty, with windows and doors barred or boarded up, possibly for safety or because they are closed. The stores and pawn shops do not have a new appearance; they appear worn out. It’s difficult to say whether they’re accessible to people with disabilities, but I did notice a few ramps at the entrances. On Main Street, there was another larger grocery store, as well as a couple of laundromats and a drugstore.
Public Spaces There are few public spaces in this Winnipeg neighborhood, and those that do exist don’t appear to be well maintained. In fact, some of the park structures for children appear to have been vandalized. There are some trees and plants to make the area appear more inviting. Kildonan Park is one of Winnipeg’s most impressive floral gardens; it is obvious that, in comparison to the others, it must be closely monitored and secured by either cadets or city police. There are numerous examples. However, there are more young people hanging out in these areas than “families,” as well as a lot of homeless people, and many of the occupants appear to be Indigenous.
Parks As previously stated, there was one main park; however, due to high rates of vandalism and repeated destruction in this area, it appears that further development and building in this area has come to a halt. It’s really sad when you think about the children who are missing out on the basic park that every child should get to experience and have the opportunity to play at, instead having to travel quite a distance before coming across a school playground or even baseball/soccer fields. Another noteworthy item to mention within this piece is that anything geared toward children/families is frequently occupied by those who shouldn’t be there, whether it’s young adults participating in “bad” events or adults who could take up space elsewhere.
Entertainment and Culture
This neighborhood has museums, movie theaters, stage theaters, clubs, and historic sites, as well as one City of Winnipeg library. What I will point out is that in recent years, the City of Winnipeg has gone above and beyond to repair existing libraries while also building new ones in Winnipeg’s most recent residential areas. It is important to note that, like most things, the one library in this area may be the only one that has not yet developed to the potential of the others; this makes me question not only the number of books that this library may have, but also the condition of the books. Although there is a theatre, historic sites, and a couple museums, these are treated as a last resort by society due to their location, so people are thrilled to visit the Human Rights Museum in The Forks rather than the Manitoba Museum because they do not have to see or deal with stepping foot within this “community.”
There are some trees on the streetscape, but it does not appear to be as forested as other residential areas. The majority of the buildings do not bother with attractive signage. There was visible garbage on some residential streets, as well as a few garbage cans, but only in more commercial areas. The cement garbage can had been tipped and destroyed in one case. The garbage included everything from empty alcohol bottles to wrappers and food scrapes, and there are no garbage cans in sight, so I wonder what the impact of placing garbage cans or having a system of volunteers completing a community clean up would be.
This area’s streets were riddled with potholes. There are sidewalks throughout the neighborhood, but they appear to be crumbling as well. A wheelchair or baby carriage would be nearly impossible to roll. Other than what the City of Winnipeg places everywhere, I didn’t see many plants or flowers. However, I believe there were fewer flowers here. The building facades were intimidating. Many of them were boarded up, had graffiti, or were in desperate need of repair.
There was almost no outdoor seating, presumably because shop owners don’t like loiterers. Graffiti is common, especially on trains, bus shelters, and buildings.
Use of the Street
During the day, there were a lot of people around; I saw a lot of mothers with small children trying to walk but having difficulty due to the poor condition of the sidewalks and the fact that they were trying to avoid the homeless who were asking for money. I noticed young children who should have been in school playing on the streets. I also noticed teenagers and young adults dressed in gang colors (my father was my driving partner and as a former gang police officer he pointed this out to me). What you don’t see are many people simply interacting with one another, as is common in most residential neighborhoods. There were fewer people out later at night, and there appeared to be a lot of drug dealing and prostitution. In the evenings, the areas are dimly lit and have an eerie atmosphere.
This neighborhood is very close to an industrial area to the north of Logan and Higgins. There is a large commercial train station just south of this area, which makes the smell in this area unpleasant and difficult to tolerate if not used.
Land Use The land is densely populated, with few, if any, open spaces other than boarded-up buildings. Houses are built fairly close together, and yards do not appear to be particularly large. The commercial area, if you can call it that, is mostly concentrated on Main Street, which is home to pawn shops and grocery stores. The majority of the area is residential, but there is an industrial area just south of it, so noises and odors affect this community.
Infrastructure The roads are in disrepair. Even though we were driving slowly, it was a bumpy ride. This is probably true for most of Winnipeg, but it appears to be worse here. One reason I can think of is industrial trucks driving through residential areas, or roads that were not repaired in previous years. The faded patches on the road where it was “fixed” ranged from fairly new to very old. Other infrastructure, such as water and housing quality, is unknown based solely on a windshield survey.
Public Transportation There is public transportation in the form of buses, but it only serves major roads such as Main Street. The majority of the streets lack bus stops. It is possible, albeit inconvenient, to take the bus. Taking public transportation with children would be extremely difficult. The majority of the cars I saw on the streets were modest and a little older. There didn’t seem to be a lot of new cars parked on the streets or in driveways.
Traffic was heavy during the day, as it appears that this residential community is used as a through street from the industrial areas to their destination. There were a lot of big trucks and even semis in the area. There were no bike paths or bike racks for people to safely park their bikes. With all that commercial traffic, it appeared to be rather dangerous for bicyclists to be driving. Despite this, I saw a few cyclists riding through the streets. Traffic was moving too quickly for the residential area, I reasoned, because there were children on the streets. On occasion, an adult on the road appears to be unaware of his location. As a result, we drove extremely cautiously.
There is almost no usable green space. The neighborhood is older and appears to be overcrowded. It appears to be quite crowded. There is a haze and a stench from the nearby industrial area. There are no bodies of water to speak of, such as lakes or streams.
Ethnicity and race
There appear to be two major ethnic groups, with one group dominating. That includes Indigenous and Asian people. They appear to live apart from one another, as I saw Asian people walking near Main Street but not elsewhere. By far the majority of the remaining people were Indigenous peoples.
I saw a lot of small churches. Some were obviously Indigenous, while others were Asian. It was hard to tell what denominations they belonged to, but names ranged from Catholic to United to Protestant. Cathedral of St. John, Church of the Rock North End, and Chinese United Church of Winnipeg are some church names. Some of them were small, but others were quite large. In fact, the Church of the Rock North End was the largest structure in the entire neighborhood.
Health Care Services
I could only find clinics on Main Street. There was a Mount Carmel clinic and another small walk-in clinic, the name of which I did not remember. However, the Health Sciences Centre is relatively close to this area and is known for its lack of safety and poor reputation as a result of its location.
Community and Government Services
The North End Community Renewal Corporation offers a variety of services to the community in order to fulfill its mandate of “promoting the social, economic, and cultural renewal of Winnipeg’s north end.” Siloam Mission, located just to the south of this area, provides food, clothing, and beds, as well as assistance with employment, addictions, and homelessness. It is difficult to get there by bus, especially if you have small children with you. It’s difficult to imagine these families taking the bus to go shopping with their children because the bus stop is so far away from their homes or other destinations. There is a welfare office in the old market area, which is south of this community and also difficult to reach by bus. Other than Main Street, it appears that necessary services are dispersed throughout the neighborhood.
The Boldness Project, on the other hand, is a program that focuses on the vulnerable Point Douglas area. The Project’s goal in 2014 is to create and publicize a strength-based narrative for Winnipeg’s North End, which already exists but is often overlooked, with funding from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Province of Manitoba.
I visited three different schools: William Whyte, Niji Mahkwa, and Holy Ghost. The three school structures appear to be in good condition. There were no visible post-secondary institutions.
Except for the University of Winnipeg, which is located near the center of this area, the colleges and universities in Winnipeg appear to be separate from the communities around them. Red River College is the next closest post-secondary institution, but it is not in the community and is difficult to reach by bus. It would most likely necessitate several bus transfers. The bus ride to the University of Manitoba would be extremely long.
Fortunately, we live in a free democracy where open and public political acts are permitted. However, I saw no protest signs or anything resembling that. I did, however, see a lot of red Glenn Murray for Mayor signs. It is obvious that the majority of this community voted for him, or had a strong preference if they did not vote. It’s understandable given that Murray was previously a well-liked mayor with a clear heart for those in need. It’s encouraging that, despite their difficulties, this community cares about politics.
Organizations in the Community
You might expect to find Lions, Elks, Masons, or environmental groups in affluent neighborhoods. Youth for Christ, Winnipeg Rental Network, Addictions Recovery, Inspire Community Outreach, and Turtle Island Community Centre are among the many community organizations in this area. Can DO People Inc. is also available for those with autism or learning disabilities. SEED Winnipeg also assists people in finding housing and employment. As a result, there is a significant difference between community l organizations. Instead of recreational facilities such as a Canoe Club, this area has centers that assist people in need.
As far as I could tell, there were no media outlets in this neighborhood, but you do see a lot of news vans and such in this area for up-to-date crime stories.
The Community’s “Feeling”
My overall impression was that this was a desperate community. Aside from the schools, which appeared to be well maintained, there were no “good” areas in this neighborhood. The entire environment felt unsafe. It appeared that drug dealing occurred in public, as school children without jackets played unsupervised on the roads late at night on a school night, prostitutes, rundown buildings and houses, garbage strewn in many places; it felt quite scary being there at night. Unfortunately, I was struck by the community’s lack of beauty.
There was a lot of traffic during the day, but there were also a surprising number of vehicles at night. The daytime traffic appeared to be people on their way somewhere else, whereas the evening traffic appeared to be locals or people looking for prostitutes and drugs. Cars did stop where young people gathered, stay for a few moments, and then leave.
Public or government structures
This area did not appear to have any government service buildings. The majority of business is conducted downtown and for a few blocks up Main Street from Portage Avenue.
What are the community’s most notable assets?
The assets of this community were not easily discernible by simply looking around. However, after conducting some research, it appears that the community does have a number of local programs to assist them, both within the community and/or nearby. The Salvation Army and Siloam Mission are both close to this neighborhood and do good work for the homeless and poor. It also has Thunderbird House on Main Street, which provides Indigenous peoples with culturally appropriate services (Dawkins, 2021).
The Winnipeg Boldness Project has been working in this community since 2014, addressing some of the most fundamental barriers to success in life, such as obtaining personal identification, opening a bank account, gaining access to the internet, assisting with complicated forms, and purchasing bus tickets for transportation. These daily barriers keep the most vulnerable people from accessing desperately needed programs. I believe that social work should focus on bringing services to people as much as possible, encouraging them to participate in their own families and communities. Personally, I believe that all government services should be housed in a single structure.
Poverty, addictions, and despair appear to be the most serious issues in the community. The quality of the homes and cars indicates that these people are struggling financially, and from the people who would stand right on the road without moving or cross the road staggering, it appeared that there were a lot of people on alcohol or drugs in the late evening. Knowing what I know about Indigenous people suffering from the legacies of the Sixties Scoop or residential schools, and the large number who struggle with daily life, I am pleased to see some Indigenous programs in the area and that they are attempting to incorporate traditions in order to get life back on track.
There were newspaper stands for the Winnipeg Free Press, as well as posters about texting and driving and birth control in bus shelters.
Residents of the Community
According to the people who were visible, as well as the houses and neighborhood in general, this community appears to be on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. This is either a working-class or a government-dependent neighborhood, in my opinion.
Neighborhood Boundaries: Politically, socially, and financially
The area is known as the North End of Winnipeg. Officially known as “North Point Douglas.” Several neighborhoods are also included, including Lord Selkirk Park, Dufferin, Dufferin Industrial, and William Whyte.
The boundaries are as follows: south until the Higgins underpass; north until Redwood; east until Arlington; and east until the Red River (Just to the east of Main Street). This neighborhood’s boundaries are all separated by some kind of physical barrier. The Higgins and Main underpass serves as the southern barrier; the bridge from Redwood to Henderson serves as the northern barrier; the Arlington Bridge serves as the eastern barrier; and the Red River serves as the western barrier.
Economically, this area is diametrically opposed to that to the south. This is the wealthy downtown area, complete with towers, good shops, outside benches, lovely flowers and trees, and high-priced cafes. And it’s all gone as soon as you head north on Main Street past the Higgins underpass.
This WS was a little depressing. This neighborhood appears to be infected with poverty and despair. It also demonstrates how Winnipeg is clearly divided into haves and have nots. In addition, it appears that Indigenous peoples are being hit the hardest in every way. This community suffers from a variety of issues, including unsafe housing or a lack of housing, a lack of transportation, and a lack of easy access to health care.
There is no doubt that they are bearing the brunt of inflation, as we all notice that our money buys less. If you can’t afford food or housing now, inflation will make it even more difficult. It appears to be a continuation of the way Indigenous people have been treated since European contact. It appears that many people in this area have given up hope.
According to the course videos and readings, it is inappropriate to only look at the surface issues, even within the context of a windshield survey, which is, by definition, not an in-depth survey of the people in this area. Readings and my own experiences with mentoring and the power of love to lift people up forced me to look deeper than I might have in the past, to see residents of this neighborhood as real people, with feelings like mine, insecurities and fears like mine, and power like mine. I believe that by focusing on our many similarities, we can reach out to people who may have lost trust in social workers and anyone representing an oppressive system.
Because of the destruction of anything “nice” that does arise, there aren’t many “assets” in this community. Friendship centers, schools, health centers, libraries, and recreation centers are purposefully built far away or within smaller streets of the area.
The difficulties are much more visible. If you look at it from that perspective, it is clear that homelessness and poverty are among the community’s most pressing issues, along with road repair. What we must keep in mind is that, in addition to homelessness and poverty, there are medical issues, mobility issues, mental health issues, and substance abuse issues. One could argue that it all stems from one simple factor: when a community’s safe spaces that contribute to a dignified way of life are removed, then decent housing, health care, addictions, and child welfare suffer. Area Vibes (2022)
In terms of my positionality, I am a First Nations woman from War Lake First Nation, located approximately 989 kilometers north of Winnipeg. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have grown up in Thompson with my First Nations brothers and sisters. My father is a retired cop, and my mother is a nurse, so our family was always at ease.
However, because we live in such a small community in the north, it is impossible to hide poor or homeless people. One of the houses we lived in, for example, was right next to the “ghetto.” It was common to see homeless people everywhere, and because my father was not afraid of them and treated them as if they were human beings, I learned to do the same. We’d talk to them just like we’d talk to anyone else. Even when they were doing something slightly illegal, such as public drinking, my father was courteous and respectful.
At our dinner table, we would discuss how important it was to “give back” to our community. I learned that from both of my parents when I was very young. So, even though I had never experienced poverty, it was something familiar to me, and there was no stigma attached to it. It was our responsibility to make their lives easier.
So, since I was a teenager, I’ve gone to my hometown of War Lake and mentored the kids there, emphasizing that they are the next generation and hoping to give them self-esteem, confidence, and skills they can use in the future. I also taught them survival skills like starting fires and winter camping. I used to go there during the Christmas, spring, and summer vacations. I treasure the sense of belonging and community that this provided me. There are many mental health issues, addictions, and suicides among youth in northern Manitoba, and participating in a youth program with me shows them that someone cares; that YOU are important; that ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE; and that there is a reason to live.
This is why I believe that love for people and wise investments in these communities can truly transform them. That is why I want to work as a social worker. Because I know firsthand how important it is to invest in communities and show that we care.
When passing through this part of Winnipeg, I found myself in the same boat as most others. There appears to be little hope. Despite the fact that I am Indigenous myself. However, I have seen and experienced changes in communities when humility, acceptance, and love are offered. I’ve seen incredible transformations when appropriate social work is directed toward them. “Stereotypes are bad not because they are not true, but because they are incomplete,” as stated in the TED talk video. (2009).
Stereotypes make it difficult to recognize our common humanity, and we need many stories to balance people’s perceptions. Listening to people tell their stories is a culturally appropriate way to approach people who have been horribly abused by our system. We must emphasize similarities rather than differences, using stories to empower, humanize, and inspire people’s resilience in the face of adversity (TED Talk, 2009).
People lose dignity when they are generalized, and they become one-dimensional. It is easy to understand why Indigenous peoples in Canada are troubled if we understand the history of colonization and how families and communities were separated. But there are also many people with good intentions who want to help this community. I’m looking forward to being a part of that in my future career.
THE WEAK ARE GENERALIZED BY THE POWERFUL. If one person is inebriated, they must all be. White privilege should not be generalized (Community Tool Box, 2022). The powerful also appear to remove safe spaces from those they wish to oppress. This was brought to mind as we learned of (yet another) mass shooting in a nightclub in the United States. This was a club for LGBTQI+ people. However, it appears that it was a safe haven for everyone. The shooter took away that safety. This also happened to indigenous people. Children were forcibly removed from their parents, and nomadic peoples were relocated to small reserves as water quality deteriorated due to overfishing and Manitoba Hydro dams.
I grew up in northern Manitoba among family members who still practice traditional indigenous ways of life. In fact, I have six uncles who still hunt and fish at War Lake on a regular basis. They have expressed their sadness at the decline in fish supply and quality. They continue to live in this manner, however, in the hope of teaching the next generation about the Indigenous connection to the land.
“I see seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life, and the entire earth will revert to being one circle.”
AMC Communications Inc. (2022, August 20). The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Applauds the House of Commons’ Historic Motion Unanimously Recognizing Residential Schools as Genocide. https://manitobachiefs.com/amc-recognizes-the-house-of-commons-recognizing-residential-schools-as-a-genocide/
AreaVibes (2022). (2022). North Point Douglas in Winnipeg, Manitoba Crime. https://www.areavibes.com/winnipeg-mb/north+point+douglas/crime/#:~:text=North%20Point%20Douglas%20crime%20rates%20are%20115%25%20higher,12%20chance%20of%20becoming%20a%20victim%20of%20crime
Toolbox for the Community (2022). Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and-resources/swot-analysis/main
Toolbox for the Community (2022). Evaluation of the Community https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and sCreative Manitoba (2022). (2022). Programs for Indigenous Peoples The Circle of Connectedness – Urban Art Biz https://creativemanitoba.ca/programs/indigenous/
G. Dawkins A street census reveals that over 1,100 Winnipeggers are homeless. The Winnipeg Sun. https://winnipegsun.com/news/news-news/over-1100-winnipeggers-are-homeless-street-census-finds#:~:text=End%20Homelessness%20Winnipeg%20hopes%20that%20the%20street%20census,the%20inequitable%20funding%20of%20resources%20in%20Indigenous%20communities
Winnipeg Homelessness Fact Sheet Winnipeg University https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/homelessness-winnipeg-fact-sheet#:~:text=The%20metro-Winnipeg%20area%20is%20the%208%20th%20largest,sheltered%20people%20and%20350%20living%20on%20the%20streets
H. Miller Recreation, Health, and Wellness Winnipeg Foundation. https://www.wpgfdn.org/health/empowering-those-around-her/ .
Winnipeg’s Boldness Project A narrative based on strengths for Winnipeg’s North End. https://www.winnipegboldness.ca/a-strength-based-narrative-for-winnipeg’s-north-end/ TED Talk [VIDEO] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg&ab channel=TED