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They live in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Kamloops, in a section of town cherished by insiders, maligned by outsiders. Bordered by Fortune Drive to the east and Tranquille Road to the west, this half kilometre stretch of pre war bungalows and aging apartments in downtown North Kamloops is home to a diverse mix of residents retirees still living in the houses they raised their children in, young families just starting out, single mothers on welfare, immigrants and Canadian born residents alike. “It’s a working class neighbourhood,” said Heidi Neighbor, a longtime resident of Mulberry Avenue. “And, of course, that’s where I feel most comfortable.” Neighbor lives just north of the former John Tod elementary school. When she and her husband bought their house two decades ago, they were cautioned about the neighbourhood. “We were informed that it was actually considered a high crime area,” said Neighbor. “I must say that in all those 19 years, we’ve actually had very, very few problems here.” The southern most section of Mulberry Avenue is a different story. There are two apartment buildings at the end where Mulberry meets Clapperton Road, about a stone’s throw from the Kamloops Food Bank, in an area hardened by time and poverty. They were known as the Sunder Green buildings in 2010 when the non profit organization Door to Roof bought them and began a major renovation with funds from the provincial government. At the time, that corner of Mulberry and Clapperton had seen its share of problems; drugs and crime brewed from within and around the apartments. But, as the renovation project began to visibly transform the buildings and their landscape, something began to transform within the neighbourhood a sense of pride in the community. It wasn’t long before tenants of the two buildings were asking how they could build socially on those esthetic improvements. “The best way, we thought, to try and help this neighbourhood,” said Danalee Coates, community development coordinator with the United Way, “was to help them form a neighbourhood association so they can be strong and address issues on their own and do great things as a group.” So, in July, the United Way arranged a meeting with the residents and several social service agencies, along with representatives from the City’s community development department. It was an informal gathering to gauge the interest in a neighbourhood association, something akin to the Friends of McDonald Park and other successful neighbourhood groups. Twenty five residents from points all along Mulberry, McGowan, Linden, Cedar and Wood attended. “We started out the conversation by asking ‘What’s great about your neighbourhood?’ ” said Coates. “And it was like a love fest. We actually didn’t get to the issues until the very end because there was just so many great things happening in that neighbourhood.” The residents said crime was down and home ownership was up. Relations were good with the RCMP and with neighbouring businesses, they said. And they cited the character and diversity of the neighbourhood as strengths to be built upon. There was, as Coates put it, no shortage of affection from the residents to their community. “I love the area; I grew up there and I want to see it still be a family neighbourhood,” said Cher Lyn Sanderson, 35, who lives on Linden Avenue, a street over from her childhood home on McGowan. Sanderson attended that meeting and was buoyed by the idea of forming a neighbourhood association, particularly the thought of a community patrol. She said the neighbourhood has changed a lot since she was a child growing up in the 1980s. “There’s still a lot of the same people but there are some drug houses,” said the mother of three. “As a child, I could go wander around, go to the stores, just wander off. It’s not like that anymore. You can’t let your kids do that.” A community patrol would help, said Sanderson. Still, north Mulberry resident Heidi Neighbor wonders if the community needs such a formal structure to improve its sense of security. On her own street, the neighbours watch out for each other, she said. But today’s busy lifestyles don’t always allow for that. “There generally isn’t as much time for people to get to know their neighbours and that’s unfortunate,” said Neighbour. “With young parents both working, there’s no time to form these more casual interactions, which I think still work the best than an organized thing.” It’s likely a formal, organized neighbourhood association will go ahead. The United Way and the City’s community development department have already set a date for another neighbourhood meeting on Sept. Though the location details are still being finalized, it is expected to take place at the vacant John Tod elementary school. Notice will go out to the neighbourhood in the days ahead.
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