GUEST COLUMN: Committing to the south end

Guest columnist Nathan Colquhoun says Sarnia’s south end has drawbacks, but he prefers it to the hidden dysfunctions of the city’s north end. Glenn Ogilvie

Nathan Colquhoun

Most folks in Sarnia frown upon the idea of our south end and would never intentionally move here. One person told me he would never consider a house south of the 402.

The south end isn’t really where you would settle if you don’t have to. There is drug use, a busy methadone clinic, the rentals are plentiful and rarely is there a manicured lawn. The crime map speaks for itself with three to five times more incidents than in the north end.  These kinds of situations strike fear into the hearts of most middle class folks.

However, once uncovered, we find that the north end just hides their dysfunction better. Money does that.

This summer we threw a block party for all the neighbours. A hundred or so folks came out for a campfire, lawn games, music, drinks and most of them brought food to share at the potluck. Many kids came out. Our ducks and chickens got lots of company. The night was excellent. All types showed up, even the neighbours who almost broke out into a fight the day before were happily in conversation around the campfire.

It seems that the predominant reason for leaving a neighbourhood is the refusal to raise their kids in such an environment.  That should force us to answer some questions; where does that leave the future of poor neighbourhoods? Have we lost the neighbourhood as something you commit to?  Why have so many people lost the imagination to go and stay in a place and work towards its improvement rather than escape to some place that is “better”?

Our values speak loud and clear. We prefer safety. We prefer the illusion of togetherness. We prefer quiet. We prefer ourselves, televisions and Internet connections. We prefer to have our kids indoctrinated by those things as well so that they are just like us and aren’t at risk to all the poorness, crime and different people.  Those that opposed the Vineyard homeless shelter know what I’m talking about.  We would rather hide our problems under the guise of education and wealth than display our need so openly on Mitton Street.

Coming to a healthy and more complete view of each other is mandatory for flourishing and safe communities. Refusing to acknowledge our own prejudices and viewing others who are different than us by overarching stigmas will only perpetuate the chasm between us.

Poor neighbourhoods. It’s obvious why they are poor. No one with money stays. No one with an education stays. No one that can leave stays. So what do we do?

I think if we want to have a healthy city that is safe for all kids and ourselves then we would see that staying might be a better option.

Nathan Colquhoun is a director and owner of Storyboard Solutions and the Refined Fool Brewing Company and a pastor at theStory