Open drug use has gotten so bad for a local business owner in Sudbury, Ontario that she was forced to temporarily shut down her business.
In a move driven by concerns over the increasing prevalence of drug use near her storefront, Tammy Maki, the owner of Raven Rising chocolate shop in downtown Sudbury, Ontario, shut her doors.
While Maki herself doesn’t feel unsafe in the downtown area, she acknowledges that the issue of homelessness and opioid addiction has affected foot traffic to her establishment and other businesses for customers who feel uncomfortable.
“The perception is much worse than it actually is, but unfortunately, that perception leads to people not coming here,” Maki told CBC.
“And that only lets what’s going on outside perpetuate and get larger, so it’s like a snowball effect. It makes me really sad.”
Maki’s concerns have prompted her to call the Sudbury police multiple times a day. Maki says drug users require more social services and better solutions.
The Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Association (BIA) is taking steps to address this issue by launching the ‘zero-vacancy’ program, allowing business owners to rent vacant storefronts at discounted rates on rolling 30-day leases.
Jeff MacIntyre, co-chair of the Downtown Sudbury BIA, sees this initiative as a means to attract more businesses downtown and boost foot traffic, ultimately enhancing safety.
“When you have more people on the street, more eyes on the street, it creates safety,” MacIntyre pointed out.
“We’ve seen that in downtowns across Ontario,” he added.
MacIntyre believes that by increasing the number of people frequenting downtown businesses, the problem of open drug use can be mitigated, making the downtown experience more comfortable for everyone.
The BIA has also taken steps to improve lighting in certain areas and install gates to discourage congregating in particular spots.
However, Kaela Pelland, director of peer engagement with Réseau ACCESS Network in Sudbury, takes issue with these measures, branding them as “anti-homeless infrastructure.”
Pelland’s organization manages the city’s supervised consumption site.
Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre is taking action by co-hosting the Greater Sudbury Summit on Toxic Drugs on December 7 and 8, in collaboration with Public Health Sudbury and Districts.
This summit aims to bring together various community organizations, programs, and services to explore collaborative solutions for the escalating toxic drug supply crisis.
Despite the city’s increased investment in social services, the problem of toxic drugs continues to worsen.
Nicole Gauthier, a health promoter with Public Health Sudbury and Districts, highlights the alarming increase in opioid-related deaths, with a nearly 60% rise in Ontario since 2018 and a staggering 193% increase in Greater Sudbury.