NIMBYs, NAZIs, and Taggers

People on the street need a place to go
Walkin’ with the beat if it’s not too slow
When the night’s dark shadow falls
On the sidewalk scenes and the concrete canyon walls.
~Neil Young

Sadly, it seems that every young graffiti artist in this city is a punk. If not, then only the punks were awarded grants under Ottawa’s anti-graffiti program to beautify graffiti friendly neighbourhoods with high quality street art.

How do I know this? Because the Ottawa Sun said so … in 72 point type.

Today’s headline, “$50G TO LET PUNKS PAINT” confirms the Sun’s unwavering support for the journalistic right to use pejoratives in absence of facts when fear-mongering demands. I look forward to reading articles like “RICH SCUM BAGS GET $50M IN TAX CUTS” and “YUPPIES DESCEND ON LOWERTOWN LIKE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS”. Fair and balanced news is for wimps.

It is a bit confusing, though, how the same paper, just the day before, carried columnist Earl McRae’s forceful condemnation of those who pre-judge street folk. McRae took on the Lowertown Condo “Nazis” who staged a mini-Nuremberg rally to oppose the move of a drop-in centre from Murray St. to its original location in St. Alban’s Church, 454 King Edward at Daly. Indeed, Earl was so inspired by the the Arch Deacon’s spirited stand that he christened him a “Rebel with a pure, perfect, justifiable cause”.

Centre 454 served the poor and the homeless at this Lowertown location for 23 years before moving six blocks to Murray St. in 1999 . They provide a wide array of counselling & recreation services and assistance with practical matters. More than that, “It is a safe haven for the community to gather to share lives, to share hopes and dreams, and to create opportunities for deeper engagement in society”. (from their website)

It was hardly surprising that the wealthy condo owners who took over this part of the neighbourhood would balk at the Centre’s return. Wealthy condo owners are nothing if not protective of what they perceive to be their own social enclaves. The usual NIMBY stuff (“it’s not that I have anything against the poor but …”) wasn’t quite emphatic enough for some who suggested “final solutions” to the problem like carting the homeless to another town. I assume we would then have to lock the city gates or risk them finding their way back home.

Coming fast on the heels of the Salvation Army’s launch of the “Dignity Project”, the conflict has promoted the problem of homelessness to the front pages.  Alas,  there seems to be some disagreement as to the nature of that problem between those who are homeless and those who are “forced” to live near them.


About Drakakis

Street Poet scribbling to your tired, your poor, your huddled masses; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, the homeless, tempest-tost ...
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