Violence and crime at the problem-plagued former “CB building” in Prince Albert’s downtown are once again in the spotlight.
paNOW spoke with an occupant of the apartments in the 900-block of Central Ave. who said she feared for her safety after she was assaulted in the building last week. Police said they are still called to the apartments frequently, but the owners, Full Gospel Outreach Centre, insisted things were getting better.
The assault victim, who spoke with paNOW on the condition of anonymity, said she felt “trapped and vulnerable” in her unit and complained there was no security in the building. She said she was not the only person to be recently victimized in the building, and with three entrances anyone can come and go at will, including gangs.
Prince Albert Police Service said they responded to a complaint of a family dispute at the building last week in which a man assaulted a woman. When they arrived, police said were unable to locate either the complainant or the accused. Meanwhile, the number of calls police respond to at the building remains high. Officers attended 21 times in the first 23 days of March.
The outreach centre’s pastor Vern Temple told paNOW he’s providing housing for desperate people such as addicts and gang members who need his church’s help. He acknowledged he was putting himself at some personal risk by reaching out and “loving these people," but insisted things were getting better with increased street outreach and assistance of the neighboring House of Potter ministry. Regarding the security concerns raised by tenants, Temple said he was being more selective with who he allows to stay at the building and has evicted some problem renters. However, Temple said evictions aren't always the right answer.
“We have to be careful with evictions because we want to be in a position to help these people,” Temple said. “If we push them away, they could become your problem. They could end up in the bush behind your property.”
Temple, who charges between $500 and $600 per month for rent, said he it was concerning to hear the building could be in line for possible demolition, even though that process could take many years. His ministry, he said, wants to help people in great need.
“It’s kind of foolish to think we’re the problem when we’re actually trying to help these people,” he said.
Temple also questioned the police stats, saying they did not provide an accurate reflection of issues in the building.
“In the last month, there were many calls that have been just needless and unnecessary," he said. "In some instances I have to help tenants distinguish between what’s a landlord issue and a police issue."
Temple said police were sometimes being called for noisy neighbour complaints or kids making noise in the corridors. Most of the security issues, he said, were of a domestic nature and often involved families and siblings.
Sixteen units are currently occupied in the building, he said, and while another seven units were vacant Temple noted he was not currently seeking additional tenants.
Meanwhile the tenant who contacted paNOW said she just wanted a safe environment to live in.
“It’s dangerous here, but I’m stuck. I have nowhere else to go,” the woman said. “Gang members come here all the time.”
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