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A park to call home

Bonnie Harpe is used to hearing girls screaming in the park at night.

Bonnie Harpe is used to hearing girls screaming in the park at night.

For seven years, the manager of the Klondora Apartments would wake up to smashing bottles, screams and even the odd fire in Teegath-Oh Zheh Park at the top of Main Street.

She got used to the underage drinking and the constant partying.

But hearing girls screaming still remains “scary.”

On Tuesday, Harpe met with downtown NDP candidate Liz Hanson to discuss safety issues.

Over the last few months, going door-to-door, Hanson has heard that some residents don’t feel safe walking in some areas of town.

Teegath-Oh Zheh Park is one of them.

Adding more streetlights on the escarpment trails would help, said Hanson.

“But that deals with the symptoms, not the core causes.”

There are people living on the escarpment, she said.

“And you have all these kids with no real shelter, and kids in care without the proper programming who end up roaming the streets.”

When the partying gets out of control outside her building, Harpe calls the RCMP.

The kids usually just run farther into the bush, she said.

“And sometimes when the cops come they don’t even get out of their car.

“Sometimes they don’t even roll down their window.”

Hanson, who used to be a street outreach counsellor, would like to see RCMP do foot patrols using designated community police officers.

“This would create a better relationship between the RCMP and the community,” she said.

The RCMP would get to know these people on the street, she said.

“It would be a way to bridge who they are, and who the people on the street are.”

Hanson just talked with a downtown resident who had a disturbing image burned in her mind.

The resident had looked out her window and noticed a homeless man building a fire using a pallet, because it was cold.

Minutes later the fire department arrived and extinguished the small blaze.

Then, the cops arrived and moved the man along.

“But they didn’t arrest him because he wasn’t drunk,” said Hanson.

The man remained outside with nowhere to go and no way to get warm.

“We need to deal with this issue of homelessness,” said Hanson.

“And we need to deal seriously with homeless youth - it’s been on the books so long.

“Putting kids in detox is not appropriate,” she said, referencing the government’s current solution - sheltering homeless youth in empty beds at Alcohol and Drug Services.

“It’s becoming a really big problem,” said Harpe.

“I’m seeing more and more kids in the park.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at