Martin C. Barry
In response to concerns by some parents in Park Extension about loitering or other questionable activities at the William Hingston Centre, a special gathering took place on Feb. 11 at the community centre on Saint Roch St. to mark the launch of a new program to enhance security there in the future.
Friend of children
As part of the program, the William Hingston Centre is henceforth designated as a public place that is an “Ami des Enfants” (Friend of Children).
According to Ghislaine Paiement, a coordinator with the Corporation de gestion des loisirs du Parc de Parc Extension, the community group is one of several organizations which have signed an agreement for developing a community approach to security, while making resources available so that community centres like the Hingston complex can be safe for children.
“Prevention” is one of the key words in the project, which has adopted as its slogan “Un enfant en sécurité, une communauté en santé (‘A child’s safety, a community that’s healthy’) she said in an interview with Nouvelles Parc Extension News.
“Today this is the result of three years of cooperation between several organizations in the area, including the city, the public library, Barthelémy Vimont School, Tandem, the Montreal Police, to find a permanent solution,” said Paiement. “
Trusted by parents
While noting that the William Hingston Centre is for many the main gathering place in Park Extension, she said a great many parents from the neighbourhood have confidence that they can bring their children and leave them with trusted coordinators and monitors for a range of activities and programs.
As part of the new program, she continued, special zones have been established within the centre which are considered completely appropriate for children and their sometimes boisterous activities, while others are less appropriate for that purpose.
At the same time, some organizations based within the William Hingston Centre have agreed to take on the responsibility of being specially delegated “friends” to children, where children can confidently go should they ever feel it necessary to seek out the guidance or help of adults.
“So this is what it means when we say this is now a public place that is becoming a Friend of Children and which is developing an attitude of watching out for them,” she said.
Dealing with problems
According to Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros, the program answers at least one or two security needs at the William Hingston Centre, as there had been complaints by a few users in recent years about loitering by some individuals outside as well as drug dealers occasionally.
She said the city has sometimes taken measures to enhance security at the William Hingston Centre, although safety at the complex is generally considered to be good. “The city is very open to helping in situations that require security for our citizens – especially for our youth,” she said.