Do we move homes and schools because of neighbours?


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Exactly one month ago, a petition calling for the removal of a meth clinic from its present downtown location at 217 Talbot St. garnered space on the front page of the Times-Journal.
The petition was spearheaded by area performer Traci Kennedy, and stated in part: “The people that grace that clinic are a disgrace to our community because they just don’t care how they behave or how their behaviour reflects on us. We as business owners and residents of St. Thomas should not have to feel like we are no longer safe in our home community.”
Reporter Nick Lypaczewski’s story – and a follow-up with clinic users who charged Kennedy’s generalizations detract from the positive strides former addicts have made – generated response from both sides of the fence.

The St. Thomas Medical Pharmacy’s Clinic 217 shown is located on Talbot Street at the New and Wlliam Street intersection near the west entrance to the city.

And the feedback continues, with increasing support for the efforts of the meth clinic, as witness passionate letters submitted this week from two readers.
“To read Traci Kennedy’s heartless rants, one almost gets the feeling that she lives in a glass house, albeit with a sordid, decrepit view of Talbot Street,” writes Sharon Hodgson of St. Thomas.
Hodgson is a community service worker and continues with this observation: “I am not surprised she believes she has the perception of support to eliminate Clinic 217, along with any addiction clients, as the city does have a well-known reputation for victimizing its vulnerable.
“Whether those vulnerable be addicted, alcoholic, homeless, women fleeing domestic assault, sole-mother families, disability recipients or homosexual.”

That allegation is going to heat up a few offices and boardrooms in the city.
But wait, there’s more.
“The appalling lack of social change awareness allows for a breeding ground of oppression, discrimination and blatant degradation from both citizenry and our so-called ‘helping agencies’, “ continues Hodgson.
“This community stands to learn a lot from our ‘forward thinking’ empathetic neighbours to the north of us, where social and medical agencies view struggling clients as people of dignity and worth.”
Hodgson closes by encouraging Kennedy to “contemplate some addicts who have struggled and still left their impressive mark (on country music): Michelle Wright, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr. , to name a few.
“Shame, shame, Traci (and your fellow petitioners), your privilege is showing.”
Dare to jeopardize the meth clinic and the work it does and you will get some serious push back.
Especially from Clinic 217 beneficiaries like Heather Ruault, who observes she has been a client for more than three years.
She reminds those who signed Kennedy’s petition “The people who attend Clinic 217 are people just like you. We work, we raise families, live in a house and pay taxes. There are students, business owners, moms and dads.”
She describes her personal hell: “I struggled for years trying to break my addiction to opiates. No one could ever understand the feeling of death all over you inside and out until you detox from opiates.
“I can say in all honesty that clinic 217 and Dr. Noftil saved my life as well as hundreds of others.
“Clinic217 is located as far west on Talbot as possible. I know there’s a bad apple in every bunch, does that mean we move our work places, our schools or our homes because we don’t approve of our neighbours?”
Sobering words from a Clinic 217 client who recounts her initial call to the clinic as a lightbulb moment she will never forget.
“The voice on the other end was like calling an angel, so kind and understanding, also very eager to help. By the end of the week I was no longer using opiates. I could finally hold my head half high”
Ruault’s letter will appear in its entirely next week in the Times-Journal.
It deserves your attention.

ANIMAL CONTROL . . . HOW ABOUT COST CONTROL
I love cats and dogs as much as the next person, but when the city is spending $200,000 every year on animal control to deal with somebody’s abandoned pet, it’s time put the whole process under the microscope.
Ald. Dave Warden ventured down that path during Monday’s council meeting when he pondered: “Do you think there’s a problem?”
Ald. Gord Campbell retorted: “I think people would be happy to know we’re spending $200,000 rather than revert to the old ways.”
You know the system needs an overhaul when neighbouring municipalities contract out animal control to the city. It’s one expensive headache they don’t have to worry about.
And, just a thought – do we need three different animal welfare groups operating in the city?
Yes, one of them only deals with canine rescue, but the groups have a checkered history of cooperation and if this has only recently been alleviated somewhat through the establishment of an animal welfare committee, then doesn’t that hint three is a crowd?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It was never approved in the budget. I told you that before.”
To ensure no confusion over the status of grants to animal welfare groups in the city, Mayor Heather Jackson gets down to basics in explaining that fact to Ray Galloway, a spokesman for Pets Friends for Life.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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