To the editor:
I moved to North Bay 8 years ago from a big city, drawn by the same things everyone enjoys about the city: surrounded by nature, nice waterfront, a slower pace of life, and lower cost of living. What I didn’t expect to find was that a huge portion of the citizens appears to be petrified with fear when faced with real-world problems.
Opioid use is on the rise; homelessness is a growing problem. No one would deny these facts. It’s how you respond to them as an individual and as a society that matters.
When I read all these sentiments, “Clean up the downtown,” “Get these homeless people to move somewhere else,” "What's with these clinics for druggies," etc., it fills me with sadness at the sheer lack of empathy and the selfishness of those citizens. They may have good somewhere in them, but their fear of the “other” and its problems dominates and creates a narrow, naive viewpoint.
Those of us who have been fortunate in our life’s circumstances increasingly dehumanize those who haven’t been as lucky; we assume it was our hard work and morally upright behaviour that kept us off the streets, and our places could never be reversed. This is incredibly naive.
If you want a downtown that doesn’t fill you with irrational fear and disgust because you may see someone in a crisis or someone panhandling, you simply aren’t going to get it. These problems are EVERYWHERE. You can’t send it on to the next town, because they have it too.
The irony is if you really wanted a safe, enjoyable downtown, you’d USE it; you’d fill the stores and streets and encourage the businesses there, thus promoting the opening of more businesses and a vibrant urban feel.
When I see something like the Bay Block Party or the new Block Public House opening this year, it shows me that there are people who get it. Use it or lose it.
Treating downtown like it’s the mean streets of 1975 Detroit is foolishly naive. Anyone who has lived in a large centre knows that business and shopping and life, in general, go on in areas where there’s drug use and a visibly homeless population. That’s what a city IS. Especially in 2023.
You really want to make a difference, support your downtown and also support those who are looking to find humane and helpful ways to end the crisis of homelessness and drug abuse, whether it's the few politicians with good motives or social agencies that actively help.
Whining about how North Bay's downtown no longer conforms to some rose-coloured Leave It to Beaver memory of what you think this city once was isn't helping anyone. And when you want to shove people and their problems under the rug, out of the way so they can suffer out of your line of sight, all you're showing is your lack of basic decency.