Last Thursday, while handing out coffee in the early morning, I watched a man change from engaging in a simple conversation with me to random racist outbursts to knife-wielding strung-out drug user.
There was no nearby police presence, but one witnessed as the user took out the knife while the witness was passing by. The witness walked out of the way from the user in defence. When the knife-wielding user turned to me, he uttered something incomprehensible, before he began to put the knife away.
Shockingly, I wasn’t scared, I was mad.
Downtown Toronto has far too many drug dealers, users, persons with mental health issues and poverty. What’s upsetting is that there is far too much of each, the group is growing, and the city is failing us all by doing nothing. Worse, the city fails to address the issue and instead enabling the situation with needle waste deposit boxes around the ward.
Let’s be real: Toronto Centre wasn’t always like this. I’m in shock that the downtown streets have become so unsafe over the years.
One of the most recent warmer days in September, me and a volunteer gave out popsicles at Moss Park. Again, I witnessed multiple illegal activities openly done around the park and community centre and I’m upset. It’s become a way of life now around Moss Park. And it wasn’t always like this.
When I lived over at Harbour Light on Jarvis and Shuter street four years ago, I was on the university rowing team. I used to walk outside from Harbour Light at 4 am and head eastbound to my rowing club for first launch. This occurred four days a week. No incident occurred during my walks from housing to the club and even then, I was aware that the area was bad. But not as bad as it is today. How am I now witnessing knife-wielding at 7:30 am outside College Park? Yonge and Carlton? One block away from police headquarters? Again, I’m upset.
I won’t be the city’s elected politician and not speak up about what is obvious and apparent. The city needs to address the issue of increased gang-related activities that are affecting drug users and everyone in the ward. Band-aid solutions as short-term programs, closures of community centres (Regent Park) for at-risk youth. Increasing yellow boxes around parks, churches, and major streets for needles and harmful drug-related products is not addressing the real issue.
Let’s provide ongoing mental health services and programs for people in our ward to get the help that they need. Let’s stop enabling drug users with tools to get high and dispose of their waste. Let’s not “temporarily” close down community centres that keep at-risk youth safe and away from gangs. We need our community centres open so that another youth does not fall victim to gun violence.
Let’s be real: it’s time for a change, and the lack of services and enabling yellow waste boxes is making the community unsafe and harder for police to do their job.