Posted on February 21, 2012 by HSC
ottawacitizen.com At the Britannia Woods social housing project on Ritchie Street, there is no such thing as an easy fix.
The neighbourhood has been thrust into the spotlight after a rash of unusually violent acts in recent weeks, leaving many who live there hoping for answers, for resolution.
On July 24, a 20-year-old man was chased down in a parking lot and hit repeatedly with a hatchet, fracturing his skull.
On Aug. 10, a day after the two suspects arrested in connection with that attack were released on bail, five bullets were sprayed in a drive-by shooting at a group of young men hanging out in front of the Britannia Woods Community House.
But, along with occasionally brazen incidents like these, one longstanding criminal element has been able to endure at Ritchie for years: the illegal drug trade.It’s harder to get rid of than one might think.
The dealers come out at night, hanging out in groups next to the community house, at the basketball court, along wooded paths bordering the area and in front of empty townhouses undergoing repairs.
For the most part, residents say, the dealers keep to themselves. No one bothers them and they don’t mess around with others (except for the noise they make, the mess they leave behind and the fear they instil).
Strange cars come and go. When the police show up, the drugs — mainly crack, people say — are tossed into backyards, stashed inside gas tanks or stuffed into mailboxes.But hours later, when the daylight shines, you’d hardly know it.
Giggling children are everywhere, biking through every park and parking lot, congregating with volunteers at the community house and playing in their small, high-fenced backyards.
Nestled close to Britannia Beach and bordered by Britannia Park, the people living at Ritchie — as the project is more commonly known — say they have a lot to be happy about.
With $6.8 million going into renovating the townhouses, Ottawa Community Housing hopes more people will feel proud of their neighbourhood.
They also hope that, because of that pride, more people will be willing to step up to do what’s needed to protect and revitalize their community.
It’s an uphill struggle.