Winnipeg’s ghastly downtown: Time to think the unthinkable

[Updated May 30 — Further information from the American Planning Association on the effects of skywalks on downtown areas.]

I happened to be at a downtown cafe the other day when I overheard the barista having a chat with a visitor from Saskatchewan. The visitor’s stay in Winnipeg sounded as though it would be a memorable one, but not in a good way.

In her frank opinion, in spite of her home town (Regina? Saskatoon?) being a “murder capital” by her own admission, Winnipeg’s downtown was just plain awful — and she wasn’t impressed with the sight of “some guy passed out right in the middle of the street”, even if Downtown Watch was tending to him.

Welcome to Winnipeg, ma’am.

As Winnipeggers, many of us are well aware that downtown isn’t necessarily representative of the entire city. Life can be pretty nice in Charleswood, South Tuxedo, Lindenwoods, Whyte Ridge, River Heights, posher parts of Crescentwood, River Park South, areas of St. Vital west of Dunkirk and St. Mary’s, or the Canterbury Park area of Transcona.

Visitors seldom spend much time in those parts of the city, however. Their lasting impression of Winnipeg — all of it — is often based on what they see downtown.

Winnipeg certainly isn’t the only city to have problems with panhandlers and petty criminals in its downtown area. I was nearly knocked down in Dublin by a shoplifter fleeing a grocery store with a security guard in hot pursuit; and watched in amusement in Sydney’s seedy Kings Cross area as a vagrant wandered into an internet cafe, banged his fists on a keyboard, and stomped back out without the attendant on duty so much as raising an eyebrow.

Even though tourists are advised to avoid walking through parts of Dublin’s city centre or down the less-patrolled side streets of Kings Cross at night, it would be considered a miracle if downtown Winnipeg were as bustling with activity as those two places are.

Sydney's Kings Cross neighbourhood: Teeming with people on Saturday night, despite its problems with crime and vagrancy (© Bernardoh; from Flickr)

Why are people drawn to central areas of Dublin and Sydney in spite of their seedy reputations, but not to downtown Winnipeg? A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association might just shed some light on that.

As part of their research, four researchers — three from the University of Waterloo in Ontario and one from Wayne State University in Michigan — sought out the opinions of more than 300 academics, urban planners and professionals with an interest in urban development. These respondents were asked how important they considered each of 19 factors in making a successful downtown in a medium-sized city of 100,000 to 500,000 residents.

Six factors stood out as being crucial to a successful downtown, having been considered “very important” by more than 50 percent of respondents:

– An active retail scene
– Pedestrian environment
– Cultural activities
– Street-oriented retail
– People on sidewalks (i.e., walking around and doing things — not passed out!)
– Employment

What’s remarkable about this list is that Winnipeg has stomped all over four of those items with both feet clad in steel-toed work boots since the ’80s.

By constructing a skywalk system so that it’s possible to walk all the way from the Grain Exchange Building to The Bay without going outdoors — and by continuing to expand that system to the present day — we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that the rest of downtown Winnipeg is a pedestrian-unfriendly environment with as few people as possible on the streets and, thus, too little foot traffic to support street-level retail. (Indoor business isn’t what it used to be at Portage Place or The Bay, either, which weakens our standing on point #1 above.)

Downtown success factors

Nineteen factors, and how well each works at making downtown a better place. (Source: Journal of the American Planning Association)

We have, however, put great effort into five of the six things that respondents considered least useful — each considered “very important” by fewer than 25 percent of respondents — to creating an attractive downtown:

– Public sector presence
– Historical character
– Presence of educational establishments
– Abundant parking
– Presence of social services; and at the bottom of the list,
– Presence of a retail mall

It’s time to think the unthinkable, bear the unbearable and say the unsayable about downtown: If we are to be serious about pulling downtown Winnipeg out of its depressed state, we need to seriously look at the possibility of closing the skywalks,* converting the second floor of Portage Place to non-retail use and turning the first floor into an outside-oriented instead of inside-oriented mall (or even taking the wrecker’s ball to that architectural monstrosity as it approaches its 25th anniversary in 2012); and accelerating the conversion of what remains of Cityplace’s retail space to other uses.

All to get Winnipeggers out shopping in the streets, which is the key to urban revitalization.

* – The American Planning Association had this to say about skywalks in their book, Planning and Urban Design Standards: “A number of cities have developed second-level walkways, often claiming that climate generates the need for this solution. Unfortunately, virtually no North American downtown has enough intensity to support retail on both the street level and the skywalk level… In some selective instances, pedestrian overpasses are workable, such as between a department store and a parking structure, or between two parts of a civic building. Such elements do not generally contribute positively to economic health and vitality of a downtown, however, and should be discouraged.” (p. 417)

Note: If you haven’t seen them already, Slurpees and Murder‘s James Hope Howard has written a couple of posts on this subject, both well worth reading. The first is his evening walking tour of downtown, followed by his retrospective on the 1987 opening of Portage Place as “the saviour of downtown Winnipeg” and the much different reality 23 years later.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

26 Responses to Winnipeg’s ghastly downtown: Time to think the unthinkable

  1. Roughtimes says:

    Close the sky walks? You obviously aren’t downtown that much yourself in the winter. If anything they should be promoting those sky walks more.

  2. Ron says:

    Which part should they promote more? The mall where the security guards need to wear stab-proof vests, or the section east of the library that’s infested with panhandlers? (Does the Cargill building even have a security guard?)

    Needless to say, I cannot wait for the Public Safety Building to move to its new location. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance I’ll die of old age before the contracts that require Portage Place to remain standing are up.

  3. DreamingInThePeg says:

    The skywalks make downtown more livable, I think, given Winnipeg’s climate and its overly expansive central business district. Many (or perhaps most) of the people who live downtown have to walk several blocks to get to the retail core, and without the skywalks might avoid shopping in other downtown districts in the depths of winter. Also, the skywalks feel safer than the streets at night or on weekends, since there is no police presence on the streets and city leaders are oblivious to the problem of panhandlers and public drunkenness.

    People will leave the skywalks if there’s a sufficient draw. Neither Giant Tiger nor Dollarama are connected to the skywalks, yet they do a booming business.

    The city could make an effort, though, to place a greater priority on first-floor retail. Adding more escalators to the skywalks might help. And the streets need to be made more welcoming.

  4. Mr. Nobody says:

    You need more people downtown plain and simple. How you get them to go there every day of the week by necessity is up to you to figure out. I know what I would do.

    I am talking tens of thousands. When you can swallow that pill dorothy, you’ll have a chance.

  5. Ron says:

    Stores that make Wal-Mart look like the Ritz by comparison? Those are the pride and joy of downtown? Oh, right, this is Winnipeg.

    What the downtown needs more than anything is a coordinated plan. This means having to explain to every politician and public official the meaning of the word “coordinated”. Fixing Central Park and Main Street are fine, but not if the problems just get shifted to Portage Avenue.

  6. urbanprince says:

    Dude, your making me cry. Why do you see the glass so empty?

    Dublin and Sydney, are you serious? You might as well as compare Winnipeg to Toronto or New York. The density of people trumps downtown issues every time. Add 4 million people to Winnipeg and you will get your Downtown. You’re being silly.

    A tourist witnesses a drunk being helped by the redcoats and that is a bad thing? Have you not been to Toronto or Vancouver, where there is no help for anyone on the street?

    An active retail scene is important. But you just can’t wish it to happen.
    I think the chumps get it –

    http://www.downtownwinnipegbiz.com/home/business/retail_strategy/

    Do you seriously think Downtown is lacking in Cultural activities? Give your head a shake. You have not seen the crowds at MTC – Concert Hall – Art Gallery?

    Downtown Winnipeg has its rough edges but have you been blind to see all the new development? There is like almost 17,000 people living downtown now, and a new housing program to add more.

    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/a-boost-for-downtown-housing-89252667.html

    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/developers-hail-downtown-housing-aid-89252827.html

    No one will walk on the sidewalks in Winter. Give your head a shake. Plus like there is 200 retailers along the walkway and hundred of residents that can access the thing?. Why is that bad?

    You blog is sour puss. And you need to do more research. You could of easly written something positive.

  7. Kenton says:

    I live and work in downtown Winnipeg, and it’s awesome: the last North American city where it’s affordable to do so.

    Winnipeggers – and Saskatchewanites – are in the same boat: people who are scared to walk around somewhere when there’s big buildings and drunk people around.

    Been to Vancouver lately? I love that city and – oh, yeah – there are heroin addicts congregated in a park right outside of Gastown: one of the city’s big tourist spots. Might as well shut down the city, eh?

    I’m in Chicago today, surrounded by drunk people, big buildings, honking horns, beggars, and all manner of “scary” things. But no one here says, “This is dangerous – get me outta here!”

    In Winnipeg, we think it’s dangerous to be downtown. It’s not.

    We think there’s no parking. There’s tons.

    We think we’re the only city with mosquitos: Houston has about double.

    We think it’s too cold for people to walk outside in winter. But we do it all the time. It’s part of what makes us who we are!

    So, while everyone is bitch, bitch, bitchin’ and moan, moan, moanin’, I’ll be enjoying an incredible quality of life at an affordable price, walking around at street level in the wintertime, and paying a few bucks to park.

    Downtown Winnipeg kicks ass. It’s the uninformed complainers who make the city a depressing place to be.

  8. Mr. Nobody says:

    Ikea downtown would have been a massive shopping magnet. But that would have taken balls to roll the dice and get it to work.

  9. Trevor says:

    Kenton, I think you must work in a totally different downtown Winnipeg than I do. As well I have extensively traveled the major Canadian and USA cities.

    Winnipeg at the corner of Donald Street and Portage Avenue has the most aggressive thugs panhandling I have ever seen, and I have been to third world countries as well.

    I am a very informed complainer and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. You can check out my videos on youtube or my day to day documentation at http://www.beggarsofwinnipeg.com

    I have never seen in Chicago, or anywherem 20 aggressive panhandlers swarm a bus stop like they did yesterday afternoon.

  10. Brian says:

    Trevor, Kenton DOES work in a different downtown; he works in a hermetically sealed faux streetscape in the outer Exchange, fifteen paces away from two hundred armed cops.

    I got so angry at the tone of some of the posts here and on ‘Slurpees and Murder’ on the same subject that I’d assembled an 900 word reply. A pointless waste – so, more briefly, let me just say as a guy who lived and worked in more than one downtown location and in more than one City’s downtown in the last decade, there’s nothing stranger than youngish, fit male Winnipeggers lecturing the rest of the City (young women, seniors, parents with young kids) about how they should ‘stop bitching’ about downtown safety and cleanliness.

    Yeah – it’s safe for people who don’t look like easy prey for Winnipeg’s unique ‘panhandling swarm’ technique. But how about everyone else?

    Winnipeg’s downtown is a public space. It’s time to reclaim it as a public space for all, not just a public space for those who want to use it as a toilet, a dollar store for drugs, or a sidewalk toll booth. Social assistance must be front and centre as part of any plan to make that happen. Ditto, responsible changes to certain City and provincial policies and services. But stern law enforcement is needed, too – like what you’d see in downtown Chicago, or Toronto, or New York.

    That hasn’t happened in Winnipeg because sincere people have convinced themselves that the status quo is somehow progressive, as if politely turning a blind eye to a predatory, soul-crushing micro-economy of cheap alcohol, cheap drugs and cold pavement is supposed to be some sort of compassion.

  11. Trevor says:

    Yes, pretty much agree with all your comments, Brian.

    Just this past Wednesday my 16 year old daughter was targeted at the Graham Ave and Donald bus stop. She felt so threatened that she paid her sidewalk toll while catching the transfer to go to her mother’s for the evening.

    Her exact words were, “I felt if I didn’t give them change I might get hit!”.

    That’s not panhandling, it is theft and assault. This developed because most people, including me, passively did nothing while this level of aggression evolved. I no longer stand idly by and I encourage everyone to take a stand against this unlawful behaviour.

    Am I the only one that remembers the 1980’s when Portage Avenue was “the place” to stroll and socialize on a warm summer evening? I moved to Toronto for several years and didn’t start working downtown again until three years ago. Ghastly downtown is an apt description. But, it is not too late for we as the contributing citizens of downtown Winnipeg to change it back.

  12. adam says:

    I live and work downtown. I might be in the minority on this, but I haven’t experienced or witnessed any violence or overtly criminal activity since moving downtown 2 years ago. Panhandlers are annoying, but will leave you alone if you don’t acknowledge them. Granted, I’m an average sized guy in my twenties, so I’m a more imposing figure than a teenage girl or a frail senior citizen. As for the skywalk issue, I wonder, how many of the cities studied experience our winters? Street level retail is fine is some climates, but people aren’t going to don their parkas and walk three blocks to a cafe during their lunchbreaks when there’s a -35 windchill

  13. Trevor says:

    When it comes to Winnipeg’s downtown panhandlers I didn’t notice how aggressive they were until I really started watching. That was after my daughter was assaulted and ran home from her downtown bus stop in tears. Since then I have been closely observing and documenting, via video clips, the instances where the panhandling is overly aggressive and in contravention of city bylaws of criminal law.

    One observation I will make is that panhandling is more noticeable in Winnipeg as compared to other major centres in Canada and the USA. This is due to the panhandler to pedestrian ratio.

    Some days at Portage and Donald there are as many panhandlers and vagrants loitering about as there are other people. It is on these days when the “Swarm” effect takes place. They feed off each other and get aggressive to the point of harassing sidewalk traffic.

    I love the skywalks when it is below -15.

    Adam, I don’t think the skywalks are a negative impact on having our downtown busy and full of active people. Toronto has an extensive underground in their core downtown area and the streets are still jam packed with people.

    The biggest difference is the Toronto downtown is pedestrian friendly. For instance, the entire area of Front St., Yonge, King and Queen has no barricades to pedestrian traffic like we have at Portage and Main.

    In Montreal or Ottawa the same is true. The downtown areas are designed to be pedestrian friendly with narrow streets and traffic lights that make driving a vehicle onerous. Who wants to spend four hours on a Saturday evening driving to their favourite pub; then get the pleasure of paying $20 to park ten blocks away. Much better to take mass transit (train and bus) and join the throngs of pedestrians.

    However, during summer I would like to see the downtown area main streets opened up to European style sidewalk cafe’s and vendors. Close a lane or two of Portage Avenue and Main Street to allow a country fair style atmosphere to develop similar to the large shopping districts in Ottawa or Seattle; lots of shops and cafe outlets.

    Even at -35, Portage and Main was once busy with pedestrian traffic. My simple suggestion is to take down the barricades at Portage and Main and keep panhandlers operating within the guidelines of existing bylaws. Those two simple steps would inexpensively and easily make Winnipeg’s downtown a more attractive place to socialize.

  14. theviewfromseven says:

    What I’ve heard here through these comments is that there is a lot of hesitation to give up the skywalk system and the malls, even if the cost of keeping the status quo in place is less street life and less development. (It’s a question of having one or the other; having both is not a sustainable option in a medium-sized midwestern market such as Winnipeg.)

    Which is fine, if people are willing to live with the trade-offs, and willing not to blame City Hall for treating the public’s mixed messages as evidence that any tough decisions meant to correct the mistakes that were made going back to the Juba administration would be best left for a future administration to deal with.

    These were errors — the replacement of street-level retail with shopping malls, the construction of a skywalk system and subsequent loss of street-level foot traffic, too-easy approval of new parking lots and the creation of a grid of one-way streets — that would figure prominently in an investigation and accident report into how and why downtown fell on such hard times, but for which the needed corrections are not politically viable.

    In the meantime, Winnipeg has two downtown alternatives that remain reasonably successful. Osborne Village acts as something approaching a small-town downtown for the 11,000 residents of that neighbourhood (16,000 if you include the Broadway area just across the river); proof that street-level retail can be successful in an area with crime issues and a nasty climate. Corydon Village is a downtown alternative for the 14,000 to 16,000 that live in its catchment area. South Osborne, with a population of about 9,600 within walking distance, is a little more run-down, but could be turned into something appealing with a bit of effort.

    While confusion reigns over what to do about downtown — do we want more foot traffic on the streets or more skywalks so that people don’t have to walk on the streets? — perhaps it would be best to embrace our neighbourhoods instead and make the most of them as civic assets.

  15. Trevor says:

    Good comments . . .

    Several years ago when I was looking for somewhere to live, and work, with my three teenagers I chose Corydon Village. Three years ago I started working downtown again after a twenty year absence.

    Now, I live in Corydon village, walk and cycle frequently through Osborne Village and work in the downtown area, which used to be a more vibrant village. I fondly remember working at Colony and Portage and frequently walking after work to the East Portage nightclub district. Remember the Marble Club, Mustang Sally’s, De Soto’s?

    With the development of the Forks and Water Avenue district reconnecting these areas to downtown should be a no brainer.

    Whether the fear is warranted or not people from the suburbs avoid downtown. A lot of that is because of the panhandlers. Make downtown more friendly and reconnect the more vibrant East Exchange district to downtown.

    The long term development approach is to connect the Forks to East Exchange (in progress), reconnect East Exchange to Downtown, connect downtown to Osborne Village and connect Osborne Village to Corydon (in progress). There is no reason these areas cannot be joined in a consolidated approach to create a social corridor in Winnipeg. In fact, if we tear down barricades and enforce the Obstructive Solicitation bylaws this will happen naturally.

    I can see the benefits of both approaches (mixed messages) that we as citizens of Winnipeg send City Hall administration. My feeling is take down the Portage and Main barricades so we have a choice to go into the Shops of Winnipeg Square / Skywalk system or cross the corner outside. The original intent of the barricades was to drive pedestrian traffic into the mall and alleviate traffic bottle necks.

    We all now know the underground mall is there so there is no longer a business need to force people indoors. Making downtown an area that vehicle traffic can quickly pass through is simply a mistake.

    To re attract, and maintain, street level vendors the scourge of aggressive panhandlers must be eliminated along this entire corridor. When given the choice of being accosted frequently on the sidewalk or entering the skywalk system most people choose indoors. We need our security to choose the sidewalk back.

  16. adam says:

    The simple fact is downtown HAS TO be easy to drive through. For better or worse, Portage Avenue and Main Street are two of the most important traffic arteries in the city, and for people who drive those routes every day, there are virtually no reasonable alternatives.

    I lived in Transcona for a long time, and as it is it was a ridiculously long drive to Polo Park. Forcing traffic to take longer alternate routes would only serve to further isolate the east side of the city, which already has to contend with the slow crawl of traffic on Provencher and Marion.

    The underground mall notwithstanding, the primary benefit of the barricades is to prevent a constant stream of pedestrians from not just slowing vehicular traffic, but grinding it to a complete halt. While I can sympathize somewhat with people who resent being prevented from crossing there, the simple fact is no one is “forced” underground. Walking barely half a block in any direction takes you to a crosswalk. You can cross Main at Pioneer or Lombard, and Portage at Fort or (jaywalk) in front of the Fairmont.

  17. Trevor says:

    Adam, I agreed with your perspective before the perimeter highway, Kenaston, Chief Peguis trail, Lagimodiere and Waverley routes were connected.

    From anywhere in Winnipeg to the furthest point, even Transcona to Polo Park, is at most 35 minutes. We do not have a traffic congestion problem in Winnipeg.

    We do not “need” to be able to drive through downtown anymore. For now it is definitely for the “worse” for downtown vitality. No other major centre in Canada or the USA has a major thoroughfare like Portage and Main that takes priority over pedestrian traffic. The minor traffic congestion we experience during the early morning and late afternoon is is because almost “everybody” that works downtown leaves and arrives on the same schedule.

    When downtown was friendlier and more appealing downtown workers would linger longer spreading the traffic pattern out over a few hours.

    The life blood of a vibrant downtown is people stopping not vehicles that are passing through. Allowing vehicles to take precedence is a direct cause for the downtown decline the last 20 years. Putting the barricades up at Portage and Main was a direct causal link to the failure of the East Exchange business district.

    I do acknowledge your comment that we “can” walk a block or two to get around Portage and Main. If you have walked Yonge Street in Toronto or St. Catherines in Montreal you would probably acknowledge the lack of a main thoroughfare, like Portage and Main in Winnipeg, greatly adds to their downtown cultural vitality. Driving in those cities is like driving down Corydon Ave on the weekend, you know it is going to be a slow drive, but that is part of the magic of the neighbourhood.

  18. Brad says:

    As a visitor to Winneg from Ottawa, can someone answer me this:

    How can I “legally” walk from Graham&Garry to the Fairmont?

    I tried heading down Graham, and then up Main, and then: I’m stuck. Can’t cross Portage. The steps leading underground were less than appealing considering I was hauling wheeled luggage. I ended up jaywalking across Portage, lugging my wheeled suitcase up and down the median, and cursing the whole time.

  19. theviewfromseven says:

    That’s a good point. Unfortunately, pedestrians were an afterthought at best and a nuisance at worst for a good number of years, and it evidently shows.

    The only stair/handicapped lift-free route I can think of offhand would be:

    a.) North on Garry to the opposite side of Portage
    b.) East on Portage, then north on Main
    c.) Cross Main at the lights
    d.) South on Main, then east at Lombard or Portage E.

    This would be about a 0.9-kilometre (half-mile) walk, unfortunately, or more than double the straight-line distance from Graham and Garry to the Fairmont. From experience, I can vouch that either a 0.9-kilometre walk or a shorter walk that requires going up and down staircases would indeed be very awkward with luggage.

  20. Jim Jaworski says:

    There’s underground trains – a subway and some streetcars (like Toronto’s) to connect the various neighbourhoods together in Winnipeg’s future.

    Our downtown is considered one of the largest on the continent, and surface buses cannot help in connecting these areas together.

  21. John Butler says:

    As a 60-year old British person who has spent many years in Winnipeg, I can say that the downtown area has simply become less attractive over the years, and that I found myself spending less and less time there, except for fleeting visits to Into the Music. I’m a non-driver, and thus subject to all the negative aspects of walking, including extreme cold (which I am used to now) and aggressive begging (which I find repulsive and sometimes frightening). What Winnipeg needs to do is close off streets to traffic, encourage some street life other than beggars by offering outside restaurants in summer as well as buskers and street artists. Attractive retail shops, art galleries etc. could function all year round, getting rid of the skywalks and pulling down the barriers at Portage and Main. Many people do not wish to live and shop underground like consumer moles. And elect a new city administration; Sammy and the gang solve all problems by building “upscale” houses and condominiums in places where affordable housing is badly needed. Get U of W students living downtown and let the yuppies hide in the suburbs if that’s what they want.

  22. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, John, for your comments. Your vision of downtown Winnipeg reminds me very much of Halifax, from which I returned earlier today. Even though downtown Halifax has a few weak points — the vacancy rate is a bit high and there is a bit of panhandling — they’ve managed to avoid the blight that has afflicted downtown Winnipeg. This seems to be because downtown Halifax has more in common with The Forks, Corydon Ave. and Osborne St. than it does with The Showcase of Bad Urban Planning Choices, a.k.a. Portage Ave.

    In Halifax, the pedestrian has priority over the car and there is a “small is beautiful, big is ugly” mentality. In Winnipeg, it’s completely the other way around. Haligonians also seem to care about their own and their city’s appearance. (In six days in their downtown core, I didn’t see a single person wearing sweat pants, spitting on the street or passed out, and there was relatively little litter.) Winnipeggers are less concerned about either their own or their city’s appearance.

    Stay tuned for more on Winnipeg vs. Halifax.

  23. Johannim says:

    Ya you’ve got it right rip out those damned ugly “skywalks” on Portage avenue put retain at a human “people” street level, open up Winnipegs famous or infamous Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic and screw the busnesses that object. Start renovating and restoring your cities over abundance of old building and get rid of that f–kin Stalinist style God awful city hall, Mayor juba should have been horsewhipped for destroying your awesome old city hall. You can make north main livable by putting the drunk, druggies and violent panhandles in a psy ward, prison, or God forbid make them get a job opps sorry thats not politically correct. Or your alternative future could be like shitholes like Chicago, Detroit and my town Los Angeles. YOUR CHOICE WINNIPEG?????

  24. Johannim says:

    Wouldn’t hurt to have the Winnipeg Police walking the beat and making a public presence (I don’t mean zippin by in a police car either) Do Winnipeggers remember the day when you actually knew u had a police service cus you saw the police all over downtown in their famous buffalo coats,there was damn little panhandling and uncontrolled drunks on your streets back in the day. Get ur cops outta their car off their ass and pounding the beat and out of Hortons donut shop.

  25. rob says:

    Hi as a person who has lived downtown from 2011 to present it IS not a safe area to live in. I have been threatened at least once a month by homeless people and/or neighbors, my wife has had a knife pulled on her and last month some guy tried to run her over with a bicycle and snatch her purse, we’ve had our apartment broken into twice and the area I live in should be a nice one but you can see people dealing drugs, gang members and parties in the back alleys by the dumpsters any day or night of the week. Not to mention finding out a lot of breakins happen to vehicles, apartments, assaults in broad daylight–all within steps to the Legislative building. Moved downtown because people told me it was really safe and rents in my area were quite decent and some of the old buildings here are spectacular. Well, I found out after I moved Portage Place and River and Osborne are the main drug lines for the city–those panhandlers are aggressive because they need their fix plain and simple.
    And it’s not for food, I have offered it to these guys over and over and either get a no thanks or even worse get it thrown at me.
    No, clean up the drugs and get rid of all the cheap liquor stores and see if there’s a change then. Sorry but people are being naive here who claim there isn’t a problem. I will say it is not because of the “homeless” people as I found out in talking to some of those guys that they do quite nicely (anywhere from 80.00 to more a day tax-free) and they have places they live and work. As a few told me they won’t do it on their property because they will get kicked out and/or don’t want to disturb the place they live. So they go downtown and the Village and then go all over other people’s properties and threaten, steal and assault others until it’s time to go home–they then go sleep in their beds and get up in the afternoon and do it all over again.
    I have also talked to the cops and found out that despite there being shelters and places for these guys to go they refuse because they aren’t allowed to do their drugs or get drunk in these places. So when you bag on the police not doing their job they are–but what can they do, they chase the guy out and/or take him in and he’s back out in a few hours off to another location.
    Be aggressive on shutting down the drugs and cheap booze stores and I guarantee you’d see a change–that is what the criminal element is after and it would largely handle the problem.
    And landlords PLEASE screen your tenants better and follow rent procedures by the book–why would one ever take on somebody like the guy 3 blocks away from where I live who tried to blow up the apartment block? Was the landlord so desperate they would look the other way that he was a registered and known violent sex offender? It was on the police blog and they released a picture of him. But oh right, it would have violated his rights. We all saw him and there are plenty others like him around. That is the last straw for me, I will be moving out as soon as I get a job located somewhere else.
    No, everyone here is missing the point–ask WHY there are panhandlers and why they need the money so desperately. It isn’t because they are “homeless” “native” “lazy” or not enough resources for them. They are the customers of the real problem and it’s called booze and drugs.
    Oh and don’t just chase these guys away for a day or so, their solution then is to go into the residential neighborhoods and deal there out of sight.

    [Posted with minor edit]

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