Neighbours split on Windsor's Downtown Mission fence proposal

·4 min read
Windsor's Downtown Mission at 875 Ouellette Avenue, is adding fencing around the property to help contain litter and crowds. Nearby residential neighbours have raised the issue at a local town hall.  (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)
Windsor's Downtown Mission at 875 Ouellette Avenue, is adding fencing around the property to help contain litter and crowds. Nearby residential neighbours have raised the issue at a local town hall. (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)

Neighbours living near Windsor's Downtown Mission are split on whether planned new fencing will curb littering and crowds as raised at a recent town hall meeting.

On Tuesday, the Downtown Mission at 875 Ouellette Avenue — which operates a host of day programs, a food bank and an overnight shelter — said it intends on building a fence around a portion of the property as a "first step" in aiding neighbours with some of their concerns.

"We're hoping that this fence will be one thing that we can do that will provide extra safety for our guests and everyone coming to the mission," said Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin, executive director of the Downtown Mission.

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

Ponniah-Goulin says the fence may be a coated chain-link style fence on three sides of the property. The potential design comes after feedback from police that a privacy-style fence wouldn't be the safest option because it could impede the sight lines of first responders and staff.

CBC News
CBC News

"I think it will be a start and I think it will go to show our community that we are hearing the concerns and we're doing what we can," she said.

"We need to do what we need to do for our community and the people who are hurting in our community, and that's our mandate … we will do our absolute best to be good neighbours as well, but we know we can't stop serving people."

Nearby neighbours split on whether a fence will help

Neighbours living across the street from the mission are split on whether it will help.

"No, no. Are you kidding me? They'll go up the fence," said Maria Karaboulis, who has lived in her home across the street since 1971.

"I think I deserve my last years to be in a peaceful neighborhood. Peaceful around here. God bless the people."

But others are more optimistic, calling it a step that will help some of their immediate issues.

"I know it will help. Yes, definitely. For sure. Especially the garbage," said Loveraman Preet, who has lived in a nearby home for the last six months.

Another resident at the home, Shareen Monga, said she also believes it will help.

Mike Evans/CBC
Mike Evans/CBC

Preet says theft and garbage are constant, as are issues with people in their backyard and back alleyway.

People crossing the road through traffic on the street, is another safety issue, says Preet, which he hopes the fence will curb.

"It's better than doing nothing. Like at least you're doing something rather than complaining or nothing is being done," Preet said.

"If there's improvement, yeah, of course you can build upon it. And then if there's nothing, then you can change it.  I'm glad they're doing this and there's always room to grow."

Nicholas Amlin also lives nearby and says he's happy the project is moving forward and said it will mitigate some, but not all, of the issues.

"With a barrier there where they can only exit onto Ouellette, it's not a 100 per cent solution, but it will stop it from directly pouring into people's front yards," said Amlin.

The fence was one of several ideas floated at a recent downtown town hall meeting held by Ward 3 Windsor Councillor Renaldo Agostino.

"Prior to this life, I was in the event business. You know, depending on how you want to look at the situation… it is just like any other event," Agostino said. "There's a gathering and there's a lot of people congregating to one place and there's food and there's drinks and there's people hanging around.

"What we wanted to do was everyone get together and see if we can find some solutions, and this was one of them."

Agostino says fencing is a first step, with lighting being another potential measure. He says it will not be a "wall" meant to keep people in, but fencing to help add safety.

"It's not going to look like a prison, it's going to look really nice," Agostino said.

"Organization meets the structure, which leads to a better quality of life not only for the people inside the mission, but the people outside the mission as well."

GoFundMe to get the community involved: Councillor

The Downtown Mission announced it is seeking donations, as well as in-kind support, to make the project happen. Agostino has also started a GoFundMe to benefit the project, offering to mow the lawns of anyone who donates $100 or more to the project. The cost of the project is currently unclear.

"That's not to say that the city won't invest in this. It's not to say that I won't use any ward funds, it's not to say any of that," Agostino said.

"What I want to see is more people in the community get invested in what we're doing downtown, in the mission ... The more people that are involved, the more people that will be invested in our downtown, in our community, and they'll feel like they could take ownership of this.

"So we got to help the people that are trying to help our people, because the people at the mission are our people, too."