Coronavirus has caused disruption in every aspect of our lives. Yet, it has also created opportunities for new and innovative solutions. The St. James Town United Youth annual ‘Basketball and Back to School’ event was unfortunately unable to take place this year. However, these changing circumstances led to a partnership with Real Talk, Real Solutions, an organisation dedicated to youth violence prevention by training young people to be facilitators. As a result of this collaboration, approximately eighty people participated in a socially distanced and coronavirus safe Community Clean-Up on the 4th of September.
The Clean-Up volunteers worked tirelessly to remove litter from the streets and parks of St. James Town. A range of donors supported the event including Street Health who gave a $350 Home Depot voucher and provided 50 shirts, the Community Healing Project who provided food, and The City who loaned 15% of the necessary supplies. The event organizers would like to give a big thanks to all their supporters such as the St. James Town Community Corner and the MLSE Launch Pad.
Both SJT United Youth and Between the Lines are grassroots in nature; run and led by St. James Town residents who truly understand the community’s needs. It has long been recognized by these organizations that the youth of St James Town don’t feel a sense of ownership over the neighbourhood. Constant complaints about garbage, needles and cigarette butts can cause residents to feel ashamed of their home. This negative attitude about space is often reflected in the way the community as a whole is viewed. The Community Clean-Up not only helps to engage SJT youth but teaches them to take responsibility for the area and to take the first step in building a better and safer neighbourhood.
Although there were visibly different results on the day, Lydia, who helped organize the event explained that one week after the Clean-Up, litter was returning, thus highlighting the need for ongoing maintenance in St. James Town. As this first Clean-Up was such a success, the partner organizations are now considering making it a bi-annual event.