Assessing the impact of community building efforts on the social networks of inner city residents

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Watson, Doug
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When I heard that Winnipeg Habitat for Humanity was attempting to initiate a project targeting a neighbourhood in need of help - William Whyte - I leapt at the opportunity to get involved and offered my services as a researcher. My first observations in this Winnipeg neighbourhood included several homes in disrepair (peeling paint, rotting wood, broken windows, etc.), litter on the streets including shopping carts, graffiti, empty lots and condemned notices on boarded-up houses. I knew the area had problems. Located on the northern edge of Winnipeg's inner city, the William Whyte neighbourhood has been marked by a steadily decreasing population, economic decline, physical deterioration and a relatively high crime rate over the last thirty to forty years. As a result, the area has experienced a large portion of its existing housing stock being converted to rental units, a significant number of vacant lots and several abandoned or condemned houses dotting its streets. These are symptoms of an important issue facing Winnipeg at the turn of the millennium: urban decay. An emigration of population, arson and other criminal activities, an aging housing stock, among other factors, have all contributed to the current state of affairs present in Winnipeg's inner city residential neighbourhoods. As residents who can afford to, move away and sell their homes, often of older stock, the population for an area declines (Leo, Shaw et al. 1998). The remaining residents tend to be people who cannot afford to leave. Fewer people and a smaller tax base leads to aging infrastructure and decreased municipal services...