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It’s amazing what one coat of paint can accomplish./ image: Haley Klassen

It’s amazing what one coat of paint can accomplish./ image: Haley Klassen

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Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor

North Central is taking care of graffiti in a big way

 

Reputations can harm or inspire, but when people think of North Central in Regina, it’s a darker image that comes to mind. It’s thought of as a place where graffiti litters every wall, garbage pours out of every alley, and the residents simply don’t give a damn. While there are efforts being done to lower the crime rate that is, unfortunately, prominent in that area, there is a promising future for North Central, especially when it comes to getting rid of graffiti.

One year ago, Kari Herbert, along with her bosses at North Central Community Association, Michael Parker and Rob Deglau, decided it was time to do something about the unwanted tagging happening in their community. Parker and Deglau applied to the city for a grant to start their “Renew Project” which would target graffiti in the alleys but also work to clean up the alleyways. While they received the grant, Herbert explained how money wasn’t enough: in order to make the project a success, there needed to be community involvement.

“We want to renew the residents’ sense of pride in where they live and have everyone working towards a safer, cleaner community,” said Herbert.

In the very beginning, Herbert was encouraged by an interaction with a local homeowner. When cleaning his alley, he explained how he was frustrated with his own backyard that, because of a stressful circumstance, had not been tended to in months. He said the people working on the alley were like “gifts from the creator” and proceeded to use the “Renew” and use people’s yard equipment to take care of his knee-high weeds. Not only did this older man fix his yard, but he tended to his neighbor’s as well.

The neighbors put out a big trampoline the next day. They couldn’t have it out before because of the hazardous objects in it. The man also helped that day with three additional alley clean-ups.

“To engage someone like him just speaks volumes about the people out there in the neighborhood. They are still out there wanting to help. It renews my sense of pride and passion for doing this job.”

It’s easy to understand how residents can become overwhelmed and not care about the condition of their alley. In North Central it is common for people who do not live in the area to dump their unwanted items in the alleys of North Central residents. Although this is thought of as a form of donation, it is really just creating a more frustrating, and dirty, environment for residents to live in. Homeowners also use the alleys as a place to dump their construction material, and it doesn’t help when tenants leave a mess in the backyard or alley.

Despite all that, “Renew” continues to be a success in the area. The retag rate for graffiti is incredibly low. Herbert said how, after painting over 130 garages with graffiti on it, they have only had to repaint 20 more times.

In terms of cleanliness, Herbert said there was still work to be done with a few problem blocks. It can be frustrating to see all the hard work put in to an alley, only to see it become dirty again because of residents who simply don’t care, but that is a part of Herbert’s work. She is working on a plan to fix this problem.

“It’s hard to reach the tenants whose level of caring is a little bit less than someone who actually owns their property. We’re trying to engage people and get them to care but we can’t reach everybody.”

The whole environment of the alleys has changed thanks to the work Herbert and her team is doing. Because of the trees they cut down, the alleys open up and make residents feel better about walking down them. “Renew” creates a safer environment for the children to play in which just adds to the whole positive feeling in the neighborhood.

“I wish we could do every single alley just for that reason.”

Herbert and her team want to keep the project going and see more and more improvements in the area. The high success rate with the graffiti clean up is encouraging, but with less than 40 tags left to do, they still have work to get done. The big thing for Herbert will be dealing with dilapidated properties that need to be fixed up as well as the beautification part of the alleys.

 

 

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