Suggestions On How To Talk About Struggling Neighbourhoods

The recent news of three business owners leaving Mitton Village is really heartbreaking that they found themselves unable to sustain their businesses in that area. It really sheds light onto larger set of issues that we face as a city. I’d like to make a few suggestions to guide our discourse about these things that will help us unite together to focus on solutions.

1) The language we use to speak of these issues is critical. The ways we describe people who have addictions or experiencing homelessness should be free from insulting, blaming and immersed with compassion. People are not their addictions nor their conditions. We cannot cast aside the social factors that contribute to addiction, such as isolation, poverty, traumatic events or mental health. Treat everyone with respect.

2) As research has shown repeatedly, demanding we get ‘tougher on crime,’ or that the police ‘do something about the drug problem,’ or lobbying for punitive responses will only further exasperate the problem. People that speak like this need to ask themselves if they actually care about the lives of people involved, or if they just want to stop being affected by them.

3) There is real systemic powers at play here that need thoughtful and well researched responses to them. Safe injection sites, harm reduction, affordable housing, safe houses, social enterprises, transportation subsidies, anti-oppressive educated workers and cooperatives are just some of the kinds of things that will help reverse this broken system.

4) The people who should be trying to solve these issues are ones who are immersed in the social environments that they are coming from. Folks from outside the area need to use caution and listen to the people that live there, running fundraisers and awareness campaigns risks making this a pet issue and will encourage more abandonment of these areas. Localized, grassroots organizing and lobbying of very particular asks with a long term vision in mind will be the way forward. If you aren’t from the neighbourhood, look to support those that are. If you are from the neighbourhood, practice compassion to all those you meet.

5) Neighbourhood pride is so important! Downtown Sarnia grew into what it is today because the artists, businesses owners, landlords and the public took pride in it. Imperial Duds made the shirt that is in this photo, Personal Touch Eatery & Catering makes some of the best food this city has to offer, ReRun’s Hari’s Famous Spring Rolls makes my favourite veggie burger, Maya’s Village Bakery is one of the few bakeries we have with daily baked options, Sarnia Farmers Market Ltdis my favourite place to go on the weekend, Kitchen Widgets is a foodie’s dream world, Thanks A Latte is the friendliest cafe there is, The Outdoorsman gives you everything you need to get off your couch and the list goes on. Get behind the culture and business and people in Mitton Village and unite together with a shared vision for the future.

2 Comments

  • …”Safe injection sites, harm reduction, affordable housing, safe houses, social enterprises, transportation subsidies, anti-oppressive educated workers and cooperatives are just some of the kinds of things that will help reverse this broken system.”

    To qualify my comment, I know that I will not be popular with my social justice draped opinion.

    I couldn’t agree more. As a former employee of a methadone clinic in northern Ontario, that’s exactly what will support the ‘culture of addictions’. No one starts out life saying they want to be an addict. Support is crucial to ensuring the cycle doesn’t start in the first place. Poverty, despair, lack of education and social supports contribute to the issue and often these things actually lead to addictions. It’s an escape – a way to stop hurting, a way to address self-hatred, a way to try to cope. I just wish more people understood and supported initiatives that would lift others out of this dilemma. I’ve always thought Sarnia had the potential to be the driving force and an example of cutting edge city initiatives like this – but we’ve just become a retirement town with no forward thinkers, and the status quo being acceptable. It’s so very sad.

  • It is my experience that most people who are fed up, including at least two of the businesses that are/have moved out of the Village, are those who have been victimized by the ‘sweet, caring, respectful’ thieves. As for me, they have damaged my property I paid for, which I had to pay again to repair, pay to replace what they stole, pay for alarm systems and cameras, which do no good because they either don’t get punished or more often don’t care if they are punished after the first round. And yes, the majority are the sad souls you think I should have only nice supportive things to say about.

    I have nothing but respect for anyone who’s path I cross until they make me their victim. So yes, I do want to stop being affected by them, and for that I make no apologies. I’m not quite clear on how you can suggest compassion for the people you refer to but then seem to turn a blind eye to their victims? It actually sounds like you think we should just unlock our doors and gates and say hey, you’ve got it tough but don’t steal, just come on in and take whatever you want to feed your drug problem. I have experienced the social factors you reference and I thank God that I did not turn to substance abuse but neither did I steal anything from anyone to get by. If someone was trying to steal my food I would gladly bag it up for them, and I have, but to steal to support their addiction, now that’s a little tougher to be nice about.

    Another very important element you have missed is the fact that this very problematic area is only in that state because the people involved in this activity were slowly eased out of downtown. The harder the community pushed to clean it up and bring it back to life the more difficult it became for the others to exist there, so they have migrated to this location. If the village can resurrect itself too then they will again slowly shift to a new neighbourhood.

    I am all for effective measures to address this problem; education, rehabilitation and support systems but I hope your vision of a safe injection site never comes to fruition.

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