Guardian Angels Generate Controversy of a Good Nature

Is this the best Thunder Bay can do?
This was taken on February 25th 2016.
Post on Guardian Angels Canada Facebook page has been seen by over 35.000 people
Post on Guardian Angels Canada Facebook page has been seen by over 35.000 people

What will it take to be heard? – Hodgkinson

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – Guardian Angels Canada leader Ian Hodgkinson has raised another storm. Yesterday on the GA Canada Facebook page, Hodgkinson shared pictures of the back lane behind the group’s headquarters on May Street South in the downtown Fort William neighbourhood.

In the laneway, since last June there have been a steady stream of people living in that particular laneway.

Hodgkinson wonders why nothing has been done. “This is a community problem, we all, city council, the police, business owners, the proper agencies, everyone needs to step up. I mean, I am on board, I am sure you all are…How big a noise do we have to make to be heard?”

The Guardian Angels in Thunder Bay under Hodgkinson have a history of making sure people know, and see what is going on in our city. In their Facebook post, the Angels seek solutions.

Positives are Quickly Outweighed by Negatives

Recently in the national media, Thunder Bay has been making waves, on the plus side are pieces on some of the amazing restaurants in our city.

On the negative side, our city’s underbelly of poverty, racism and despair are getting national coverage. Honestly put, it is very likely that those stories are going to gain increasing traction until as a city we change some of what we are doing.

Is this the best Thunder Bay can do?
Is this the best Thunder Bay can do?

The Guardian Angels boss isn’t just raising this issue once, the image below was taken on June 21st 2015, when it started to happen. At that point the city’s solution was simply cleaning up the clothing and blankets by throwing them out, leaving the homeless people with even less than they had before.

There are growing numbers of people who are camping out downtown.
There are growing numbers of people who are camping out downtown.

Downtown Fort William as a neighbourhood is one that is loaded with potential and opportunity. Rents are affordable, there are new businesses opening in the area, including Hodgkinson’s Krav Maga training centre, a new Fudge Store just down the street on May Street, the Hub has expanded, and there are new restaurants opening like the highly popular Excuria. On Victoria Avenue East, Thyme Restaurant has opened. Along with Blue Door Bistro, and new owners at Giorg Ristorante on Justice Lane, the ever busy New York Sub on Brodie, and neighbourhood stalwarts the Mandarin and Golden Wok, along with Norma Jeans, there are a lot of positives happening.

The Chapple Building is undergoing renovations and upgrading. There is a lot of positives happening.

The City is even looking at Victoriaville with an eye to positive change. Downtown Fort William should be the place in Thunder Bay for new business. For people looking to spark their entrepreneurial drive, downtown Fort William offers affordable rents, and the opportunity to get going and build their dreams.

Downtown backlanes should be safe too.
Downtown backlanes should be safe too. Most mornings, gatherings like this where people share drinks of hand sanitizer, hairspray, or mouthwash are a far too regular ritual.

City Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Unfortunately, Fort William downtown also offers a view of some of the worst of Thunder Bay’s social problems. Many laneways are littered with empty liquor bottles, empty hair spray and mouthwash containers, and discarded syringes.

Discarded bottles from last night's party
Discarded bottles from last night’s party

The beautiful Kam River Park spends months as a basically inaccessible place, for over three years most of the lights are out, this leaves this unpolished gem as a dark and dangerous place at night.

Thunder Bay
Kam River Park is left unplowed and ignored, dark and dangerous.

During the winter, the park with its wonderful wharf, is left unplowed, icy and dangerous to walk.

It is also because of the neglect, increasingly a place where those more inclined to drink and shoot up drugs go to hang out.

Kam River Park Walkway
Kam River Park Walkway

Hardly the kind of message that the city might want to share with visitors, let alone residents about how much importance is put on the downtown southward.

Mayor Hobbs has repeatedly talked about making downtown Fort William revitalization a focus of his administration, but with time there is little substantive action, with all of the apparent focus on a north-side Event Centre taking the podium.

Shelter House is often overwhelmed and over capacity
Shelter House is often overwhelmed and over capacity

Winters see the downtown sidewalks left in many cases almost impassible to pedestrians. It is equally difficult for motorists who might wish to park and shop, the steep snowbanks get very icy and make it difficult for passengers to get out of their vehicles safely.

This winter with the ever changing weather has ice and puddles formed on many sidewalks and intersections, making it even more risky for a pedestrian. When the City of Thunder Bay produced its recent Climate Change Plan, it appears that what might have been missed was getting past the paper and into action and onto the ground.

Unpredictable weather needs to be considered. Thunder Bay should be setting a goal of becoming the leading community in Canada when it comes to innovation in road maintenance and snow clearing. Instead all too often our roads degrade far too fast into potholed cattle trails.

Making the downtown Fort William a safer, more inviting and more engaging place will make a greater difference in our city than many other proposed projects.

It all comes down to what we, as a city, and what our City Council and Mayor are willing to step up and accomplish.

Dare we dream to aspire to be the best?

Why not?

James Murray

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