Make This Better: Drouillard Road

Here is some good news:
Amidst the biased newspaper articles and the rumoured reputations, Drouillard Road is actually in an okay place.
A year or two ago, I was irked by a few things I had read in a familiar news source, depicting residents as downtrodden and troublesome, crimes and drug deals treated as the norm. But I knew better than to believe one reporter’s opinion and assume that Drouillard Road was a place with no hope.

Earlier this year, Michelle and I visited Stephen Lynn, who helps run the Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal. Housed within the Gino A. Marcus complex, the organization focuses on maintaining a strong, well-knit community through various events and endeavours like dinners, movie nights, art parties, and fireworks nights. Meetings are even held twice a month for residents to have a say about possible improvements within the neighbourhood. Funding for the Neighbourhood Renewal is made possible by the United Way and the East Windsor Cogeneration Centre, and although time is limited, the group has managed to cover a lot of ground since inception in 2010.

Among the mentioned projects stands the Ford City Community Garden, across from the old Adler’s Bakery. After months of planning and collecting through the efforts of residents and volunteers alike, plants are already forming! From my short time spent there, I saw first hand the impact it’s made as a community builder, bringing residents together to foster and share something.

I am not denying the struggles that Drouillard Road, (or, as I will from now on affectionately refer to it as Ford City) has endured. Much like a certain city across the pond, it boomed with success rather quickly and depleted within the same century. Staggering negative changes inevitably turns any area upside down.

Aside from work being done to strengthen the community, there needs to be a change in which the city perceives and talks about it, a break in the stereotype of this ‘dishonest neighbourhood’. Nothing can be transformed without a positive outlook.

I’ve been fortunate to have met Ken Taylor, a former Windsorite (and now editor of XLR8R Magazine) who had taken a few members of BCL to Drouillard Road one rainy evening for some photo ops. Through email, he shared with me a few vivid recollections of the neighbourhood he remembers growing up:

“I think what was always most interesting to me about Drouillard Road was the mythology surrounding it. Having grown up in Lasalle, and not spending a lot of time near Drouillard as a kid, we just heard a ton of stories about negative things that would go down there—usually apocryphal, secondhand tales, of course. I feel like even driving down the street on the way to play soccer at Ford Test Track as a kid, I got a sense that the neighbourhood was a lot different than mine, and it was intriguing and a little bit scary, too, but again, almost purely because people around me claimed that everyone that lived near Central was on welfare, or just generally not living a very clean, honest, or hardworking life. Most of the stories revolved around bikers, drugs, prostitution, and blind pigs, and I always had this perplexed feeling, like, “Can that really be happening just a few miles away?”

“A few years later, in university, my friends and I made a film that involved a car being stolen and then lit on fire. We were looking for an area that would mimic a derelict strip in Buffalo, NY, and I immediately wanted to use Drouillard as the backdrop, which turned out great (again, exploiting it for its photographic appeal, and not being particularly sensitive to the social implications.) Spending full days on the street really got us interacting with the neighbourhood—mostly curious folks who’d wander by, ask what we were doing, and then say something like, “Why would you ever want to film here?” I also specifically remember wanting to shoot from upstairs in one of the buildings, and talking to the people at New Song Church (which I think had just recently opened at the time), who were super-helpful and supportive, allowing us access from their upstairs to shoot the scenes happening on the street below.”

Through the help of participation of community-building organizations and residents themselves, this is a place that is getting better.


7 Replies to “Make This Better: Drouillard Road”

  1. Rosina, really great post … love that you talked to Ken.

    This is really poignant, “…there needs to be a change in which the city perceives and talks about [Drouillard Road]…” I couldn’t agree more, but I think you’ve pointed to some great examples of how that’s already happening.

    Can’t wait to see the updated photos, I think this is such a great location for the letters!!!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to see Drouillard through your own eyes, instead of believing everything the paper has to say about it. I grew up in this neighbourhood, moved away when I was 20. My family still lives there so I still feel like I never left. I used to hate telling people where I was from because I knew they would judge me right away and judge my family before they got to know us. Us “Drouillard People” are not all troubled, on welfare, on drugs or sell our bodies. MOST of us are hard working individuals. Yes there are some troubled souls that live in the neighbourhood, but tell me one other neighbourhood that doesnt! I live in the county now, In a beautiful town full of beautiful people but I have the cops called to my street at least once a week. our bikes have been stolen, my cars been broken into. Crime is EVERYWHERE. Drouillard Road is full of some of the best people you could ever meet. The paper would know this if they just took the time to see it. Every time there is an article in the local newpaper about Drouillard it saddens me that thats all people get to see. So thank you for taking another look at Drouillard. And thank you to Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal for working their hardest to better the community, and showing the city Hey we’re not so bad!

  3. Thank you Liz, you nailed it. I too, grew on Drouillard. And so did my parents and my Grandparents. I always heard stories from them about how Drouillard was a booming place. Stores, bakeries, jewelery stores, fruit market, and more. They say at one time Drouillard was busier than downtown. Having moved away I drive down there once in a while and it’s a ghost town. Within the first year of moving, there was a man murdered 2 blocks away from me. Less than 6 months later, another man was chased down a beaten half to death. I had my home taped off from the front porch to my garage while the forensic team did the investigating. I remember telling my son, wow I moved away from Drouillard for this. Like Liz said in her comment “crime is EVERYWHERE.” And it is very sad that Drouillard has that stagma. One more thing, I had went to visit my Aunt and Uncle that live around the Port Dover area, and even down there people heard of Drouillard Road and of course being from there, I guess they figured I was a “bad ass” and there was some fear that came with it. Sad, if they only knew.

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