Our community has some real work ahead of us

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think outside the boxTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – Our community has some real work ahead of us if we are to thrive and succeed into the future. One area that needs attention and should be generating great interest is how Thunder Bay engages with young people. The scope of how young people are engaged with in our community range from top notch, to a complete failure.

While much of the attention has been on big projects, Prince Arthur’s Landing, the new Provincial Courthouse, and the Ring of Fire, what is really being missed are the youth in our city.

Youth have the disadvantages of being a group who, for the most part do not vote. At the civic level, where voter turnout ranges at around forty percent or so, that low voter turnout is likely magnified greatly. Sometimes, youth, at the political level can be seen as a group that can be addressed much as one might address a small child. That kind of ‘seen and not heard’ attitude is one that really needs to be changed.

No where was that more evident than listening to a young person this week who has managed to pick himself up, get himself moving forward in life and is determined to make a difference.

Seeing things in our city through the eyes and words of youth is to engage in the hopefulness for the future. Often youth see situations as able to change, they are more flexible, perhaps more open to new ideas. Often youth don’t vote, but rather volunteer and get involved becoming the leaders that they see are needed. Perhaps they are ‘voting with their actions’ and realizing that the change they need isn’t likely to come by way of the political process? I digress.

This young person shared a story about how really difficult it is in our community for youth to make a difference in their lives partly due to a lack of assets in our community to assist them in doing that. Take crisis shelter for young people, Thunder Bay is lacking in the very services that other communities offer, that make sure that no young person is left to fend for themselves.

The truth of the matter is that it is not a new issue, this is a problem that young people, single mothers with young children and teens all face in Thunder Bay. This past week, another individual relayed that the shortages for housing have led to a situation where people are living in the bushes all around the city. In one case, a situation developed that involved police, and the officers shared that this is a common problem.

From the latest Thunder Bay Police Service business plan, the biggest problem that the TBPS have facing them is public intoxication. Our city has “the highest custody rates for public intoxication in the province. The interconnection between substance use and crime ranges from public disorder, robberies, assaults, domestic violence, property crimes and the loss of life through homicides. Organized crime groups are engaged in a multi-million dollar illicit drug trade which profits from the suffering of persons with addictions”.

Yet there are eight treatment beds in our city. To take this to another level, another young person I know waiting for admission to treatment has taken months to get a space. That space is in Sudbury. Thunder Bay doesn’t have any spaces open. Even in Sudbury the wait is months and months away. This is a massive problem that will, until solve continue to make problems worse rather than better.

The young person sharing his story this week, explained how gangs prey on youth in our city. This person shared that a youth left to fend for them selves are easy prey for the very “organized crime groups” that the police say are profitting from the suffering of persons with addictions.

Perhaps part of the problem is that too few of the solutions are taken from listening directly to the people who are impacted. Granted the respect of being treated as a person with dignity, many of the people who need help will share their story with you. Listening isn’t going to be easy. In fact it could be that is one of the problems that puts a roadblock in the way of solving the problems.

It is not easy to listen to a person share their story without wanting to do something to help. For experts, sometimes it is easier to relate to studies on paper. For politicians, it is unlikely that a group of homeless or addicts are likely to seek a deputation. However gaining a view of what is really happening in Thunder Bay would give many in the positions to impact change the opportunity to make a real difference.

Chances are once they do, their perspectives on what is most important in our city will change. Once that happens, we are going to see really positive change in Thunder Bay.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer