Following a longer than he would have liked winter hiatus, homeless advocate Jason McComb is ready to pick them up and lay them down as he resumes his cross-Canada trek in aid of the homeless.
Long before the sun breaks through on June 1, Jason will be on the road to Tillsonburg and on to Brantford, Hamilton, Oshawa and then north to Orillia for a musical interlude with Matchbox 20 front man Rob Thomas, who is performing a solo gig at Casino Rama on June 11.
Thomas has been a positive influence in Jason’s life and the promise of a ticket waiting at the door was enough to warrant tweaking his route to accommodate this side trip.
“Through his band and through his music he has gotten me through so much,” Jason advises. “He’s had a tough life.”
From there, Jason will walk to Burke’s Falls — where the onset of winter proved a road block last year — and then “it’s all the way on to Vancouver,” he asserts.
Jason admits in some ways he is a little more prepared for the resumption of his Walking in the Free World awareness campaign.
“I have my buggy with a Homeless Happens banner on it. It’s a three-wheeled stroller which made it feel like I tripled how fast I was walking near the end of the walk last year. The last few days I’ve been customizing it to better hold things.”
Word of his walk has spread across the country and as far south as Texas to a volunteer organization in Houston.
In fact, between interviews for traditional media and now social media, Jason has appeared in over 1,700 stories, articles and blogs by his count.
“There are stories behind stories,” Jason points out. “The homeless community is riddled with mental illness. Understand there is a reason why we are in this position and we need to take care of each other.”
WHITHER THE MALL?
Whether you are of the opinion it has become an anachronism or has suffered through a lack of local entrepreneurial vision, the news Elgin Mall is to go on the selling block has prompted fascinating feedback on the Times-Journal Facebook page.
Here’s a snippet gleaned from the dozens of comments posted this week.
Kelly Pearson writes, “That mall used to be the only place I would shop. Refuse to spend $$ at Walmart unless absolutely necessary … Abolish the big box stores and let’s see competitive shopping again. Little mom and pop stores would thrive again.
According to Brian Poirier the way forward is not complicated.
“It’s a simple fix, an entrepreneur to develop a vision.”
Kelly Fafard agrees. “Vision is so important! But that starts with us and our politicians … what do we want our city to look like?”
Kathy Cedar proposes something a little more drastic.
“They should build hi-rise apartments where Zellers was located … that would keep the mall businesses open and gear new businesses toward the residents
Beth-lynn Reid is thinking along the same lines.
“The whole mall needs to be ripped down. The roof leaks the whole inside needs a face lift. I say tear it down build the 10-storey apartment building, maybe a little park and keep Metro and move everyone downtown. Downtown needs small business support.”
Joanne Redman is a little more introspective.
“How very sad, at one point and not too long ago, that mall was the place to go, I miss those days.”
And, to finish on a positive note, Pam Matthews Hedden reminds us of this.
“I think we need to remember that the mall is still 50% occupied and those stores need our support.”
ON A GOOD NOTE
Perhaps the life blood of Elgin Mall will no longer be retail-driven but instead institutional with the opening this week of the Fanshawe College Career and Employment Services office near the food court area.
Operating in partnership with Employment Ontario, the aim of the centre is to place over 400 people in jobs over the next year while offering support and guidance to an additional 300 individuals.
And, according to St. Thomas/Elgin Regional Campus chairman Ross Fair, focus on the community influenced the decision to situate their new employment services office in the confines of Elgin Mall.
“Part of us going there is to help revitalize the mall by stepping up the foot traffic,” Fair pointed out at the opening. “So we’re hopeful that as we meet with employers and meet with people who get work, they think to come back and shop at the mall.”
Across town, opposite the Princess Avenue Playhouse, the second good news announcement of the week is a result of the incredible perseverance of the always effervescent Liz Brown and her team at Violence Against Women Services Elgin County.
Provincial poobahs were in town to announce a $1.93 million investment in Women’s Place Emergency Shelter, which will replace the existing 98-year-old house currently used by VAWS.
Most encouraging is the $1.1 million in community donations over the past two years.
“This is a community totally in action,” noted Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek. “It’s absolutely amazing . . . the letter writing and the community involvement was so impressive.”
Acknowledging the provincial funding, Brown said “It is an incredible gift to our community as we strive together to create the community we want that is grounded in safety.
With the high-energy Brown at the helm, the official ribbon-cutting at the new shelter will likely be some time next summer.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Obviously we know this is going to be a wise investment. We know your community has made this incredible commitment and therefore we are only too pleased to help you with the realization of your dream.”
Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek at a media conference to announce her ministry would be contributing $1.93 million to build a new women’s shelter.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope