More sensitivity and less stunt when reaching out to the homeless


city_scope_logo-cmykThe promotion was called Sleepless In Our City, a well-intentioned fundraiser for the United Way of Elgin-St. Thomas. In capsule form, former MP Joe Preston and Tim Smart, the regional sales manager for a couple of local radio stations, were going to bundle up and spend the night sleeping – if possible – in the back seat of their respective cars. In the case of Tim, a Honda Civic.
(Full disclosure here, I spent several years as a volunteer on the United Way campaign cabinet and the entire team is to be applauded for raising in excess of $485,000 in this year’s campaign, as announced Friday evening.)
The media release from the United Way noted, “In Elgin St. Thomas, 20% of home owners and 42% of renters were spending more than 30% of their household income on shelter costs.”

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Is this how you promote living downtown?


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It’s taken close to a week but the city sent a building inspector over to 554 Talbot St. to ascertain what needs to be undertaken to at least bring one or both of the ‘forgotten’ apartments across from city hall up to minimum property standards.
This follows on the heels of two visits by fire prevention officers last week to document fire code shortcomings in the upper units adjacent to the former Capitol Theatre.
So are the four residents any closer to more hospitable accommodation?
Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd said Friday, “The smoke alarms were installed and the junk and everything moved out of the hallway. I think the only thing left is the owner had to order fire doors.”
Take note if you happen to live in any of the similar upper apartments along Talbot Street. Second-story apartments only require one way out, advised Todd. Such is the case at 554 Talbot Street.
“Third storey, then they require a fire escape,” explained Todd.
Do all units downtown meet this requirement?

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Round 2 of demolition derby announced


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We’ve been down this road before and the last time around it led us right to the courts.
That’s in legal and not tennis.
City manager Wendell Graves contacted us late Friday afternoon to announce the city has a tender out for demolition of the Sutherland Press building.
“We don’t know where this is all going to materialize yet,” Graves was quick to add.
“We are following a fairly streamlined process here and that is out on the street for bids. We’ll see what happens when we get to that point.”
He confirmed there has been no activity at the site after the emergency order issued following partial collapse of the roof in September was lifted late last year.
The tender bids are due back early in February, Graves advised. Continue reading

Don’t worry, he’s not throwing in the towel


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We caught up with Jason McComb this week after his return to St. Thomas from Edmonton where he halted, for the winter, his cross-Canada trek to raise awareness for homeless issues.
He is heading to the North Bay area for a well-deserved retreat to recharge mentally and physically.
If you have seen Jason this week you know he is extremely gaunt, although he never was a Pillsbury dough boy
To allay any fears, Jason assures he hasn’t lost any enthusiasm for his Walking in the Free World undertaking. Continue reading

From bad to worse over at Ascent


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We laid bare last week the grim financial picture at Ascent — the former St. Thomas Energy — which bled more than $14 million in red ink in 2014.
It’s an ugly scenario the mayor and city council were loathe to reveal publicly and you really had to have a penchant for picking over financial statements to get a sense of how dire the situation is.
As shareholders, the city was not going to issue a media release to ratepayers in an attempt at damage control.
And there’s another dramatic turn of events this week at Ascent: City Scope has learned CEO Ron Osborne has tendered his resignation.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the shareholders to confirm that one either.
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For homeless advocate Jason McComb, it’s awareness not the raising of funds


city_scope_logo-cmykHomeless advocate Jason McComb has walked his way through June and on this last weekend of the month, he will spend time in Sudbury
We caught up with Jason on Friday as he departed Sturgeon Falls — and above the roar of passing big rigs — he recounted his meeting in that community with a small group of elementary school students and their teacher on an outing.
Needless to say it was the type of first-person encounter those impressionable young people will long remember.
And it was an opportunity for him to stress again, his cross-Canada trek is not about fundraising, instead it’s about raising awareness for those who are homeless — society’s lost souls whose numbers now include Canadian veterans.
Jason put it this way. Continue reading

Unwilling participants caught in a juggling act


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It’s an unenviable position to be in, but for Pauline Wimbush and her immediate neighbours on Kains St., they are unwilling participants in a circus-type juggling act.
If you recall, Wimbush lives next door to what she calls “a disaster” at 46 Kains St. An abandoned and derelict cottage-style house that has been at the mercy of the elements for the past four years with the owner having moved to Holland.
The vermin-infested house is akin to “living next to the St. Thomas zoo,” advises Wimbush.
She contacted Mayor Heather Jackson last year, however the mayor’s lack of response “showed very poor and weak leadership,” asserts Wimbush.
Speaking to the city’s chief building official Chris Peck on Friday, he outlined the process undertaken when a stalemate like Wimbush and her neighbours are facing drags on for years. Continue reading