With spring comes an interesting renewal at Crossroads Salvation Army Church on the corner of 95 Street and 116 Avenue: the church has re-opened its doors.
Boards are gone from the windows and doors and new church service signs are posted. Workers are removing old carpeting and laying new flooring, painting the walls and replacing old plumbing and electrical. Repairs to the façade are also planned for this year.
After a failed bid in 2015 to build a new church on the property, the Salvation Army has changed their focus to healing their relationship with the community. Connie Cristall was appointed the new ministry unit leader with that goal in mind.
As James McIntyre, a church member and area resident said, “Our reconciliation is about getting back to the basics.”
These basics have included cancelling their contract with Homeward Trust for the winter warming drop-in program and focusing on local ministry. Current programming is centered on faith-based services like bible studies and disciple studies. They also provide lunches for children attending Norwood Elementary School and run the outreach van.
The van is a common sight in the neighbourhood. It provides at-risk women with food, clothing, toiletries, faith-based support and referrals to other programs. Salvation Army administers the van, but local churches such as Bethel help operate it. The program is gearing up to provide more preventative programming so at-risk women in our area avoid getting into prostitution. “We want the same things the neighbourhood wants, to get these women off the streets,” said Cristall.
As Cristall shows me around the uplifted building, she said, “We want to be good neighbours.”
Although the building has been renovated, you can still see the period craftsmanship in the chapel’s vaulted roof and railings. There are a few administrative rooms and a small room for supplies from the outreach van and the Norwood School lunch program. A children’s anger management program will be hosted this fall for area children of all ages. The church also hopes to run family empowerment programs for people with family members struggling with addictions. All are Christian-based church programs and geared towards our community.
There’s no denying the community and the church have had problems in the past, particularly with the winter drop-in program run by Homeward Trust and the city. Participants would leave trash strewn across the property and down the alley, abuse drugs and alcohol outside of the building, engage in prostitution, sell drugs and sometimes trespass on properties. Even once the church closed, this property continued to be a magnet for poor behaviour.
For many years, the church had become a community frustration as neighbours were dealing with the behaviour of some of the clients. As neighbour Gerard Forget noted, “Things were fine with the church when we first moved into our house in 2001, but around the time of the Avenue Revitalization in about 2006, things just started to go bad.”
Prostitution, drug usage and deals, noisy patrons, and loud arguments were common occurrences. But Jocelyn Forget said, “Things seem to have gotten a lot better since they re-opened.”
There are still concerns that the property will once again become a problem for neighbours, but Cristall and McIntyre say they are committed to dealing with any issues.
“Anyone is welcome to stop by any day or give us a call and if anyone has any concerns we will address them,” Cristall said.
Watch for an upcoming open house (date to be determined) in which everyone is invited. Call 780.474.4324 for more information. I remain cautiously optimistic that things can and will continue to improve.
Header Image: Connie Cristall (right) said the church wants to be a good neighbour. Credit: Nicola Dakers