The Bear Clan Patrol is expanding to include different areas in Winnipeg. They now have a new meeting point at The Hive, located on the University of Winnipeg campus.
James Favel, the executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol, says the group wanted to expand to include the West End because they want to serve whatever communities need their services.
He adds it makes sense to expand outside of the North End where they currently work.
“The West End has the same kind of issues we have in the North End. They have the exploitation, homelessness, addiction and solvent abusers - it’s all there. Some of the exploited persons that were once in our community are now on the other side, because they didn’t want to have to deal with us,” Favel says.
The Bear Clan Patrol first existed in Winnipeg’s North End in 1992. After a few years, the volunteer safety group went on hiatus, but in July 2015, they reformed to start patrolling Winnipeg streets.
According to Favel, there have been changes from the first iteration of the Bear Clan Patrol in the early 1990s to now.
“They (the first iteration) were primarily in vehicles and ran longer hours. There were less members out. We (now) are almost exclusively on foot and have people (in cars) that provide support who carry the heavier things,” Favel says.
Currently, the Bear Clan Patrol works in Winnipeg’s North End, West Broadway and the West End throughout the week.
Anastasia Yurovsky, who is frequently in downtown Winnipeg, says Winnipeg is not always the safest place to be, especially in the inner city neighbourhoods. Having the Bear Clan Patrol can help the city deal with the situation in a non-violent manner.
“It is important to have the community involvement in keeping the neighbourhoods safe. It creates awareness and a sense of responsibility in all members of the community, which is important for the prevention of violence. We need the Bear Clan Patrol, not only to keep the inner-city neighbourhoods safe, but to promote awareness of the issues,” Yurovsky says.
Favel’s vision for the future of the Bear Clan Patrol is looking more at the inner city. He would like to see it go from Inkster Boulevard between Main Street and Arlington Street all the way over to the river in West Broadway.
According to Favel, there are 1,000 Winnipeg-based volunteers involved with the Bear Clan Patrol. Favel says that he had an idea about how many people they needed to do their work, but that number was exceeded by volunteers. Because of all this help, what they could do in a week they can now do in a day. There are chapters in 25 communities, 13 cities and six provinces across Canada.
“We are on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with the community and are able to build better relationships with our community members. I think that’s one of the key differences in what we’re doing,” Favel says.