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.