Film explores how inner-city ‘war zone’ became vibrant family neighbourhood

In News by Shane

Families tend gardens at Lord Selkirk Park in this image from the documentary A Good Place to Live. (A Good Place to Live)


The transformation of a Winnipeg housing complex from a graffiti-scarred gang-and-drug-ridden “war zone” into a vibrant and coveted neighbourhood is the focus of a new documentary film, A Good Place to Live.

The Lord Selkirk Park complex, a collection of residential buildings tucked along a curve of Dufferin Avenue in the city’s North End, was created in 1967. By the late 1980s, it had become plagued by poverty and violence, leading to abandoned and boarded-up units.

“It’s indescribable what this park, that we call it, looked like. I’ve seen third-world countries that lived better than they did here in the ’90s,” Carolyn Young of Manidoo Gi-Miini Gonaan, a non-profit child-care centre in the neighbourhood, says in the documentary by Ian Mauro and Jim Silver.

“They referred to Lord Selkirk Park as a place of last resort to live, a war zone,” says Janice Goodman of the North End Community Renewal Corporation.

“It was very, very hard to live here. There was so much gangs. You couldn’t go outside without fearing what’s going to happen to you,” Madeline Hatch, a longtime resident, says in the doc.

In 2005, Manitoba Research Alliance — group of academic researchers and community and government partners —began working with Goodman’s group to see if something could be done.

“When we came in here, some people were saying, ‘This place is a mess. We ought to bulldoze it,'” said Silver, a member of the MRA and a professor of urban and inner-city studies at the University of Winnipeg.

Rather than raze it, the groups went about revitalizing it…

The changes helped neighbours meet and shattered the social isolation. Many new immigrant families live in the area, tending to the gardens, raising their children in a community where people help and look after one another.

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