‘Sad and challenging times’ – City Scope readers respond to the plight of St. Thomas’ downtown core


city_scope_logo-cmykLast week’s item on the state of the downtown core generated a far-reaching cross-section of opinions, possible solutions and a smidgen of finger-pointing.
Here is a sampling of what has landed from various City Scope locales as of mid-week.

Jackie Harris, a patient care manager offered a valid alternative to security guards taking care of business.

“Why aren’t we thinking of peer outreach workers instead of security? There is an excellent model in London called London Cares as well as other models across Canada and the US.
“We are totally missing the boat on this St. Thomas…”

That prompted this response from St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston.

“Thank you. St Thomas has our CMHA street team and the Mental Health Police support team both active on the street.
“We, with the help of Jeff Yurek, have reached out to the Ministry for more team members and a Detox, Rehab, Mental Crisis beds.”

Jackie Harris in turn responded with the following.

Joe Preston, all excellent models, however people with lived experience of mental health and addictions should be part of these teams.”

The Nameless imageCould that possibly be a harm-reduction group like The Nameless in St. Thomas? A hard-working group of volunteers that gets little to no recognition from either the city or Southwestern Public Health.

Joe Preston responded one more time with a comment that just might be challenged from some corners.

“Jackie Harris I agree. The clinical decisions are CMHA driven. I know peer support is becoming a larger role. The city cooperates and networks with them and other community organizations.”

Richard Stewart had a very valid observation.

“I have been preaching broken windows theory since I returned to St.Thomas.
“If one looks at the Bridges out of Poverty program, the first thing they talk about is what a community in despair looks like.
“I think this is a pretty clear description of this city. For too many years (in one case next to Cafe Siam) buildings have been allowed to sit empty and rot. City building standards have been ignored.
“The city is afraid of a replay of the Barwick era.”

I’m not sure I understand the significance of that last sentence.

In an email, Tom Caldwell adds from the is-your-head-in-the-sand department a quote from our writing last week, “To hear Councillor Jim Herbert say he wasn’t aware of what’s happening at Patti Mugford’s property is discouraging.” He comments in the following fashion.

“Shame on you and all the councillors who don’t seem to care about the downtown area. News is not going to come to you so why not you go to the merchants?”

Well, credit to Coun. Herbert for responding right away.

“Thanks for your comments. I did feel bad that I did not know some of these issues.
“This is the first time that we have been invited to this committee meeting so I was very interested in the comments.

Jim Herbertjpg

Coun. Jim Herbert

“Council has been very active with both homelessness and mental health issues on downtown Talbot Street.
“After the meeting, I went and spoke in person to Patty Mugford and we had quite a chat.
“She thanked me for coming to take the time to speak with her.
“That afternoon, I spoke with (director of engineering) Justin Lawrence and he brought me up to date on what happens with garbage pickups in alleyways and other concerns that many merchants have.
I told both Patty and Justin that I would bring some of these concerns to our next council meeting.
“Hope this helps.”

Dennis Kalichuk zeroed right in on what is at stake.

Dennis Kalichuk“Sad and challenging times. These are somewhat new, and ever-growing problems and issues at levels and in areas we’ve never had to deal with in the past.
“We need to ask ourselves, what is it that we are doing differently or not doing, that is causing the exacerbation of these social ills.
“And then we need to change and improve those current non-working methods, programs and philosophies.”

We wrote about Dennis recently and his petition presented at the Ontario Legislature. You can read that here.

‘A world where mental illness is seen in the same light as all other illnesses in Ontario.’

A reminder from Tina Caldwell of the work done by Brad Jones.

“Brad P Jones did an amazing job on cleaning our streets from all the paraphernalia laying around St Thomas …made our streets a lot safer….it’s sad that the city refuses to pay him for his services….it’s a full-time job!!”

Diana Hill, meantime, doesn’t mince her words.

“Homeless should be made to clean this up. Maybe putting trash cans back on the streets will help with all this mess.”

The trash cans are there, insists Sue Margetts.

“Diana Hill, we have a trash can in close proximity to this area in front of the post office.”

And Rochelle MacDonald adds the following.

“Diana Hill, there’s still lots of trash cans. Those things that are tipped over half the time are huge garbage cans. U may have to cross the street but they seem to be one on every block up there.”

Dee Wells wastes no time in going for the jugular in rather over-simplified fashion.

“The mayor is busy deflecting responsibility, city manager (Wendell Graves) hasn’t a clue and the councillors are unaware of the issues.” “What are the public servants of this city doing except collecting a paycheck?”

And we’ll finish off with Bud Lorch who ties everything together in one neat package.

“Welcome to downtown ‘Anywhere’ it seems. The ‘supply chain’ in illicit drugs certainly wasn’t cut off by atmospheric rivers & the like.”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

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