Kenora Moving Forward is holding a community discussion on safe streets to bring together people to talk about reducing harm in the downtown core.
Elauna Boutwell, the community coordinator and community space lead for Kenora Moving Forward, said the Saturday meeting coincides with beginning of the summer season.
“Just in conversations with people, it sounds like it would be good to have another one,” she said. “[if] we want to come up with any solutions together, this might be a good time to put something together.
Boutwell said they would like to have a broad variety of people attending, including street-involved individuals and business owners.
“We'll facilitate a discussion so that everyone's voices can be heard and everyone can feel like they've been a part of it.”
Andy Scribilo, the president of the Kenora and District Chamber of Commerce, said he has attended these meeting in the past and is planning on attending on Saturday. He said he will try to get members of the business community to attend as well.
“An invite goes out to discuss of how to bring the two realms together and make it safe for the summer for both sides,” he said.
Scribilo said because of safety incidents late last year, many businesses are keeping their doors locked.
“People just feeling uneasy because most of the businesses here don't have a full view of who's coming in and what's happening,” he said. “They're feeling very apprehensive and I really agree with the businesses. I'm in the chamber right now. We keep our doors locked until a member comes up or a person wanting to do business.”
He said the increased street patrol during the day in downtown by the Ontario Provincial Police is making a difference.
“During the day now when the police are out, it's a very positive, including at our mall, where they're cruising and patrolling the area for what's going on.”
Boutwell said the voices of unhoused people are not particularly well heard in decision making circles.
“It is often difficult to get the folks who are living on the street to be able to prioritize and be a part of a board meeting, right? It's not the first thing they want to do, she said. “It's getting creative and finding ways to really listen to the voices of people in ways that work for them and find ways to include those voices in realistic and [manageable] way.”
Boutwell said these types of issues are not unique to Kenora.
“Housing and evictions are issues everywhere right now, but Kenora is kind of unique in the way that our social fabric here kind of deals with it. But I think that the size of our city is a really good size to be able to tackle this and be able to solve it together.”
“I think that there's lots of hope here for us to figure it out,” she said.
The community session takes place at the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre event space Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.