The original Bear Clan will be moving to a bigger, better den as the safety patrol group prepares to open a second location in Winnipeg this winter, its executive director says.

Bear Clan Patrol Inc., a volunteer-driven group based in the inner city, recently moved into its home at 584 Selkirk Avenue — and is expanding to a new-and-improved location just down the block.

“We were growing faster than we were able. We’re getting so many donations now that we didn’t have room to house them all,” James Favel, executive director of Bear Clan, said.

To make room for all the donations, helpers and community members in need, Favel said the group will be taking over a larger, more accommodating space in the building at 563 Selkirk Avenue, by January 2020.

The older, smaller space could only fit six people, he said. According to Favel, it had limited electricity, lacked a proper heating system and couldn’t contain all the food donations.

“And it’s problematic. We have people lined up outside for hours sometimes. It’s going to get cold. I don’t want to have people lined up for two hours outside waiting. So this will help with that,” he said.

The plan is to move food distribution from their first building in Winnipeg to the new location, which will house the tables, fridges and freezers required for the food security program on one side of the building and office space for administration on the other side.

The old spot will remain the volunteer patrol base, for now.

“We’re out there trying to be a positive resource for community members. again, a consistent presence, something they can count on, something they can rely on,” Favel said.

“It’s very satisfying to know that so many good people are out there taking on the responsibility of doing this work.”

Growing pains

The patrol group was created to keep the peace and assist residents in inner-city communities in Winnipeg in the wake of Tina Fontaine’s 2014 death.

What began with a dozen volunteers and a $900 budget in 2014 has grown into 1,600 volunteers in Winnipeg and a presence in 56 communities across Canada.

“The people in our community already have it tough enough. We don’t need punitive measures,” Favel said. “We don’t need to be under-served and over-policed.”

He said he’s starting to see the shift he’s been looking for made possible with resources and funding from the province, non-profits and community organizations.

For example, the existing Selkirk Avenue food security program serves an average of 117 people per day, although some days that number is much higher, according to researchers. When the new location opens, food distribution will be moved there.

A report commissioned by the Bear Clan and released recently by the University of Manitoba found the food security program is meeting a need in the nearby Point Douglas neighbourhood, and significantly improving people’s access to fresh foods.

“This is why we’ve been fighting for so long,” Favel said.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg and Rachel Bergen

  • Reply

    giselle henderson

    03 12 2019

    i thruly think this a amazing thing u are doing ! james and the bear clan crew ! thank u for helping us here in the north end and for people from everywere i dont know what i would do with out the help from the den just wanted to put it out there ! meegweetch ….

  • Reply

    Blair Davis

    05 12 2019

    East hamilton ontario needs your help this area is being ruined by drugs amd gangs. Crime on the rise. Graffiti gang tags everywhere. Murder shootings and more. The city and police aren’t capable of dealing with this and improving a safe neighborhood. They come and leave. At night Gangs are hiding within government housing. Please advise if you have any ideas of making it safe to walk on the streets again.

  • Reply

    Valerie Charles

    13 12 2019

    Bear Clans Patrol Unit I greatly admire and appreciate your services. It reminds me of Children of “Children of The Night” in Hollywood, California where I was rescued by undercover workers watching out for the possible homeless youth on the street, and I was 14 years old at the time in the mid-’80s. I myself being a Grown Aboriginal woman and being brought up in foster homes, group homes, then coming to the city of Winnipeg into a lock-up for youth back then known as “Seven Oaks youth Centre.” I ended up rebelling and running away and ended up on the streets. Then followed by human trafficking by a man which, he held a gun to my head and forced to go with a couple to the states. I remember every detail like it was yesterday, The colouring, and cutting of my hair to make me more mature, 35 years later I’m lucky, and fortunate to talk about it, Not like my sisters or brother out there who endured or enduring the same horrific experience. This is the first time that I am publicly writing about it and its still very emotional for me as I’m writing this at this very moment. Please keep up the great work that you do and I look forward to volunteering one day or night. I pray that others will continue to donate to such a great cause, especially when it comes to the Aboriginal Communities and cities all across North America. No, pun intended but seriously they thought I was Mexican and I cried telling them I was from Canada and I’m probably missing. That’s where “Children of the Night” found out my story was true and paid my way back. Here I am, to live and talk about it, I only wish I would have spoken up sooner and I’m sure it would have made a difference to my relationships and my children knowing the horrible experiences I went through plus especially for others right now. That down inside I do regret and I hope this story whoever reads it helps them on their own healing journey as well as I’m still on mine.

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