New Chinatown Safety Council
REACH Edmonton collaborates with community partners to develop strategies that make Edmonton a safer and more vibrant city. One way REACH builds capacity within neighbourhoods is by supporting local safety councils in specific geographic areas in Edmonton. One of those areas is the Chinatown Business Improvement Area (BIA), where REACH is convening and coordinating the newly formed Chinatown Safety Council.
In the summer of 2020, REACH was tasked with coordinating an effort to support Chinatown to address its safety concerns. Two large stakeholder meetings took place. Priority concerns and manageable first steps to address them were identified. REACH then proposed the creation of the Chinatown Safety Council, which began meeting regularly in February 2021.
The formation of the Chinatown Safety Council delivers on Action 1 of the 2017 Chinatown Strategy: “Develop integrated connections between social agencies, businesses, and community to advocate and collaborate to identify issues and opportunities on solutions regarding safety and security.” Council membership includes community groups (Chinatown and Area Business Association, Chinatown Transformation Collaborative, Chinese Benevolent Association, Edmonton Chinese Young Leaders Council), social agencies (Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, Boyle Street Community Services), City of Edmonton (Community Standards, Revitalization), EPS, and REACH.
The Chinatown Safety Council has had some notable early success. The business community’s relationships have been strengthened with social agencies – most notably with Hope Mission, which has the largest footprint in the BIA. Workshops are being discussed to build bridges between business owners and unhoused individuals. Translated safety resources are circulating more widely. Discussions are taking place to strengthen the community’s relationships with EPS. Dedicated safety council social media and a community events calendar are being developed. A campaign to equip businesses with motion activated lighting for back entrances is in the works. And a volunteer base is being mobilized to support safety council actions.
Poverty and services addressing poverty have concentrated in the area for years. A persistent opioid crisis, COVID-19, and anti-Asian racism exacerbate the situation. Many businesses have closed over the past year. But the community is resilient and the will to address the challenges is strong.
Chinatown faces layers of challenges. Poverty and services addressing poverty have concentrated in the area for years. A persistent opioid crisis, COVID-19, and anti-Asian racism exacerbate the situation. Many businesses have closed over the past year. But the community is resilient and the will to address the challenges is strong.
In bringing diverse stakeholders together in a collaborative and coordinated way, the Chinatown Safety Council provides some cautious optimism. It’s beyond the capacity of the council to eliminate poverty and homelessness or solve an addiction crisis. But by building cohesion and breaking larger, complex issues into manageable actions, positive things can happen.
Chinatown is a wonderful, unique, and historic asset in Edmonton. Those of us in Boyle Street and McCauley are particularly fortunate that it exists within our neighbourhoods. Whenever possible, please consider supporting its businesses.
_Mark is Program Manager for REACH Edmonton’s Neighbourhood Organizing Initiative. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org