Opinion: Too soon to give up

There are no shortage of suggestions on ways to improve Chilliwack’s downtown core. But giving up should not be one of them.

There are no shortage of suggestions on ways to improve Chilliwack’s downtown core.

But giving up should not be one of them.

Last week a Nowell Street restaurant created a stir when it announced on its Facebook page that it was closing.

“I don’t feel safe anymore,” wrote managing partner Fabrizio Rossi, “so I will shut the doors of Society Gathering House next week and fence my building until better and safer times.”

His frustration is understandable. The area has been the scene of several police incidents since the restaurant opened three years ago. Most recently it was behind police tape when a man was shot to death a few blocks away. Rossi says drug use in the area, prostitution and threats to staff has left him with no choice.

Contrast that with efforts by another group. They’re co-ordinating a “Walk for Peace” downtown this Friday, aimed at showing people a better side of Chilliwack. The group, which includes downtown residents and business owners, say Chilliwack has its share of challenges, but pointing fingers won’t fix them.

“I encourage readers to stand by Chilliwack despite its recent challenges,” writes Emily Sayward in a letter appearing on page nine.  “Hold your head high; be proud to live here and remind yourself that this is a good place.”

Of course, Sayward is not suggesting problems can be fixed through good intentions alone. Indeed, efforts to understand and craft solutions is an evolving process. Next week, for example, a forum will offer fresh insight into the “Housing First” strategy for addressing homelessness that the City of Chilliwack has already committed $700,000 toward.

The recent sale of the former Safeway site also holds promise for the downtown. It reflects confidence in the area – confidence that can also be seen in residential construction along Spadina and elsewhere.

None of this is to deny that more can be done.

But one of the most helpful suggestions might be the easiest.

If you want to help the downtown, shop there.

Walk its streets.

Meet its people.

As Emily Sayward writes,  “Let’s remind ourselves and other residents of the downtown core that Chilliwack is a place filled with incredible people who want nothing but the best for their neighbours as we walk together in peace through our downtown core.”