There isn’t an easy answer for the ongoing drug and safety concerns downtown, but the Kenora & District Chamber of Commerce is continuing to work alongside business owners to find a new solution.
“It’s really concerning,” explained Chamber President Andy Scribilo.
“I talked to one retailer yesterday who was really taken off guard with some of the things going on outside of their business. Individuals are going down and really intimidating businesses,” he adds.
A local business owner had posted a picture of a young man injecting drugs into his arm onto social media earlier this month – highlighting Kenora’s ongoing addiction issues and sparking a heated community discussion.
Just a few days later, a portion of Second Street South was blocked off as officers responded to an aggravated assault and one person was found with life-threatening injuries and remains in the hospital.
“I mean right now; most businesses have their doors locked,” Scribilo adds. “They’re very concerned and apprehensive of some of the things downtown. They need something to reassure them that they can be safe in their own business. We’re working with the city. We have an open dialogue.”
Scribilo notes the Kenora OPP has been conducting additional foot patrols in 2023 as promised, which have focused on areas near banks and the lobbies that those in need often utilize.
He adds the City of Kenora is still working to hire its Community Safety and Wellness Coordinator which will help to address some of these issues, but a lack of available services and a lack of housing continue to contribute to the problem.
“There’s not any one answer, but I think everybody working together is going to come up with a solution sooner rather than later. I think we have to,” he adds.
“I think the businesspeople and residents are starting to work together, which is nice. See something, say something. Nobody should be chastised for it. Deal with the problems that you see, so that no one gets seriously hurt.”
Kenora Council has also recently passed a Notice of Motion to look at the possibility of creating a 24-hour warming and cooling centre downtown, which would also help to connect those in need with services in the community.
The OPP has also explored the idea of creating a downtown office to connect with those in need and additional bike patrols for the community this summer.
Residents are also reminded that if they see any suspicious activity, contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 and if they witness a crime in progress, call 911 immediately.