A Visitor’s “Interesting” Summer in McCauley
When I asked my old college roommate if she had a room for me for the summer, I never thought I’d be signing up for one of the most interesting summers of my life!
There is a lot to love in McCauley – friendly front-porch culture, magnificent trees, great access to transit (I put a lot of miles on my monthly bus passes), national and ethnic diversity, kindness towards those in need, the Italian Centre and Caboto Park, proximity to restaurants of world cuisines, passionately loyal long-term residents, and committed and engaged citizenry. I – a white woman in my late 60s – felt personally very safe. It’s a great neighbourhood.
And then there’s the other side of “interesting.” My arrival in late April coincided with the widely noted spike in the opioid crisis, and our house was in the thick of it. Almost immediately, while I was enjoying a coffee or beer on the lovely veranda, it became obvious that one house was generating an unusual amount of foot traffic and that in our area there was a disproportionate number of overdoses and attendant EMS calls (and garbage). Neighbours across two blocks connected and started to act. Over the next weeks we kept track of numbers, setting up an “incident reporting” spreadsheet on Google Drive. With so much drug use happening on our block, we inevitably had to call in suspected overdoses. When we did, we had conversations with EMS, fire folk, and police about the broader opioid issues facing our community. Anytime anything went down, we knew about it and shared the information.
My neighbours also developed a plan to contact the services which could address problems. Collectively we liaised regularly with EPS, especially McCauley’s “beat cops.” We also kept Mark Davis (REACH Edmonton), the Revitalization Committee, the Community League, and the Problem Properties Initiative in the loop. We contacted our City Councillor, met with our MLA, and filed many 311 complaints and reports with SCAN.
We came together, coordinated our efforts, and saw great success. In early August the main problem house was shut down – emptied, boarded up. Though the process took time because service providers and civic/provincial authorities are bound by laws and procedures, it was worth it.
My lessons learned:
- Help the authorities with concrete information – keep a written record of dates/times/incidents.
- Thank them for their services when you can – they’re people doing their best.
- Talk to your neighbours – there is strength in numbers.
- Be patient – let the legal process evolve but stay in touch with the enforcers.
- And, be VERY determined.
Thanks, McCauley, for a really great summer!
Important contact information if YOU have a problem property to report:
- Mark Davis, Program Manager for REACH Edmonton’s Neighbourhood Organizing Initiative: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SCAN: Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods: 1-866-960-SCAN (7226). There’s also a reporting form on the web.
- The City’s 311 number is also an option, though they have been very busy this summer!
Hermina Joldersma is a retired academic currently living in Yellowknife pursuing fibre art and other adventures in Canada’s North. She’s always had a soft spot for Edmonton generally and McCauley specifically.