While the agenda of the panel was to put a positive spin on two west-side neighbourhoods battling crime, residents at Monday night’s meeting used it to vent frustration.

“They have to wait for somebody to get killed to do something?” Judy Belanger shouted into the microphone. Belanger, who has lived on Ritchie Street for 30 years, alleged police were well aware of gang activity in the building where 24-year-old Malik Adjokatcher was murdered earlier this month.

Also in attendance was Staff Sergeant Mark Patterson of the Ottawa Police Service’s Guns and Gangs Unit. He confirmed the presence of gangs -- “we have gang members in Ottawa. Absolutely” – but added they often come from outside the neighbourhood.

“There’s been some gun shootings. There’s been a stabbing. There’s been a kid that got run over just here in the parking lot,” said Jodie Gauthier who plans to move by July.

Still, at the heart of the discussion was the larger and more complex issue of poverty.

“I call it economic apartheid,” said Pastor Terry Orchard of Britannia Baptist Church. Orchard said the area’s reputation – which includes Michele Heights and Britannia Woods – causes children to be bullied at school. He said it also leaves parents struggling to find work because employers look at their resume and choose not to hire them after seeing where they live.

Several people (some on the brink of tears) talked about difficulties finding employment. Statements like “there are no jobs and they keep on telling us there are jobs” and “I’m a father today, 36 years of age, who doesn’t have a job,” were echoed throughout the Michele Heights community centre where the meeting was held.

It’s a problem many said trickled down to youth in the area that see the hardships of their parents and feel defeated.

“Our young men, for a variety of reasons don’t often have the same perspective (as young women) that they’re going to get out,” said Chelby Daigle.

The family of the man murdered May 14th had similar things to say during an exclusive interview with CTV recently.

At the time, a grief-stricken mother talked about how her son longed to make a better life for her and his four brothers.

“We have to talk about things like class. We have to talk about race. We have to talk about social justice,” said long-time resident Deka Omar.

Ottawa councillor Mark Taylor hosted the meeting and called it a “resident feedback session.” He said he shares the frustration of area residents and hopes discussions like the one that took place Monday night will lead to improving things over time.