KENORA — In an effort to address public safety concerns, local coalition Kenora Moving Forward is seeking a new a location that will serve space for their CommUNITY program.
Kenora Moving Forward has operated their CommUNITY space for three years, but has been without a permanent space since last summer.
“We want to be part of the solution which, until the housing crisis is addressed, includes creating spaces where people can escape the streets, and feel safe and supported,” said Mary Alice Smith, the chair of Kenora Moving Forward, in a news release issued on Monday.
Public safety concerns, an ongoing issue in Kenora's downtown neighbourhood over the last few years, have again been the focus of attention after a highly-publicized assault in a business on Dec. 23, which prompted a special council meeting the next week.
“ATM lobbies and businesses are not intended for that purpose, but sadly, when there are no better options, people with no place to go will resort to the next best thing,” Kenora Moving Forward community coordinator Elauna Boutwell said in a statement.
“Welcoming, warm spaces like the Fellowship Centre and the ones we have operated, with washrooms, coffee, food and access to basic services, offer a buffer to harsher realities on the street.”
Smith said it's frustrating for the group to have its efforts shut down without any new solutions being offered.
“This hurts everyone. We too want Kenora to be welcoming and safe for businesses, visitors, and townspeople. We know that providing safe spaces makes a positive difference,” Smith said.
In the news release, Smith and Boutwell addressed the recent incidents, along with how people have reacted on social media.
“These are the actions of individuals in moments of crisis, not a demographic,” said Boutwell. “Painting everyone with the same brush can be misleading.”
Boutwell also said that Ne-Chee Friendship Centre, a group that hosts dinner locations 3 days a week, has noted, “that they have found people who use the space to be respectful, appreciative and helpful in keeping it clean and well maintained.”
“There’s a crisis in this community and others across the country, around housing, addictions and mental health,” Smith said, “until these issues are addressed, it’s unlikely this situation is going to improve for anyone.”
“We are looking forward to ongoing discussions with the City, the OPP, businesses, social services, surrounding communities, and other leaders. Together we have the power and resources to make positive changes.”