A Dose of Thunder Bay Reality

Syringes litter the streets and alleyways. Superior Points doesn't work weekends.
Syringes litter the streets and alleyways. Superior Points doesn't work weekends.

Syringes litter the streets and alleyways. Superior Points doesn't work weekends.
Syringes litter the streets and alleyways. Superior Points doesn’t work weekends.

Downtown Presents Opportunity Once Problems Solved

THUNDER BAY – Walking  the streets and alleyways of Thunder Bay in the morning is like an archaeological tour. One can see the impact of drugs, alcohol and substance abuse. Broken bottles, discarded syringes, lots of bottles of mouthwash, hairspray, and often clothing left aside.

Downtown the alleyways, and the hidden spots offer a clear show the depth of problems that doesn’t seem to have the attention of many in the city. Or maybe is is just not the full attention of those who should be more focused on doing something about it.

Mouthwash and Hairspray Bottles – Depth of Addiction

Mouthwash, hairspray and used syringes behind the Thunder Bay Historical Museum
Mouthwash, hairspray and used syringes behind the Thunder Bay Historical Museum

Many early mornings, there are young women plying the ‘second oldest profession’ along the streets. Victoria Avenue East, May Street, and just north of the downtown core on MacKenzie Street, young women often as young as 15 or 16 seeking to jump into the cars of old men to earn a few dollars are some of the signs of a city with problems.

Homelessness and Addiction

An unofficial campground at Kam River Park. The can of Bud Beer sure doesn't match the television commercials.
An unofficial campground at Kam River Park. The can of Bud Beer sure doesn’t match the television commercials.

Police invest time in making sure drivers are not talking on their smart phones. The efforts to increase patrols in the downtown are met with mostly silence over the past eight years. 

Downtown, what started as a problem at night has morphed overtime to a problem of far greater magnitude. That is what happens when there is lots of talk, but not a lot of action.

Downtown Victoria Avenue East - Vandalism is more than just smashed windows
Downtown Victoria Avenue East – Vandalism is more than just smashed windows

Solving the drug, substance and alcohol problem starts with building a city where we are ‘open for business’. 

The surest and most stable path out of poverty isn’t a government program, it is a job.

That means we need to focus on building opportunities, not talking about programs or grand infrastructure like new event centres. Honestly, in Thunder Bay taxes are high enough, talk about raising them and the message to investors is keep heading east or west.

Those opportunities need partnerships and will require hard work. 

Hairspray and mouthwash bottles along with syringes litter the back alleys
Hairspray and mouthwash bottles along with syringes litter the back alleys

Thunder Bay is a city with enormous promise, and equally with enormous problems. 

Last Monday, at Thunder Bay City Council the North Superior Workforce Planning Board presented figures to the Mayor and Councillors. Those figures outlined real employment numbers, and included the region.

That was a solid move by the Workforce Planning Board. Thunder Bay as a community with the largest population in Northwestern Ontario will be a node where people looking for work, or looking for access to more resources will move to when those one industry communities have economic woes.

The goal in Thunder Bay has to be in building real opportunities. It means perhaps realizing that solving the problems will take some public investments in social services. 

Fire, EMS and Police are busy in the downtown
Fire, EMS and Police are busy in the downtown

A person seeking to get off of alcohol, drugs, or substance issues has a long wait in our city. There are very limited resources available. The simple reality is that when a person makes a decision to change their lives for the better, our community isn’t fully ready to offer that critical hand up.

Touring the downtown core early on a Sunday morning is to see for yourself there is a real problem. One wonders how often politicians are out there seeing the scope of the reality, rather than waiting for nice neat reports?

Getting everyone focused on solving those problems, especially heading into a civic election where it already appears the campaigning has started is going to be even harder.

Likely with the efforts of fellow Thunder Bay citizens, business owners, politicians and City Administration, along with provincial and Aboriginal leaders, the solutions will be found. 

To me, at least, I see solving these problems as far more important than $8,500 in replacing some tamarack trees.

That of course is just my opinion, your mileage may vary.

James Murray

All the photographs in this article were taken on Sunday morning, October 27 2013 in the downtown Fort William area. 

Enhanced by Zemanta