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Some businesses on Richmond Street are locking their doors and calling on the city for help | CBC News

A number of businesses in downtown London, Ont., are signing a petition calling on the public and all levels of government to help create a safer environment in the core.

The petition comes after a numerous shops have recently had to deal with smashed windows, customers and staff being assaulted and shoplifting.

“It’s a shame that the city is just coming apart at the seams,” said Carla McGilton the store manager of Salon Entrenous. “These people need help.” 

McGilton said one of the salon’s clients was assaulted in front of the store with a bottle. She said staff contacted the police, but no one showed up.

Carla McGilton, the store manager of Salon Entrenous, said she feels discouraged about the environment on Richmond Row. (CBC News)

As a call for action, the petition reads, “Homelessness and substance abuse has led to a deterioration of quality of life in London and especially our core area, along with a sense of heightened criminal activity and community disorder issues.”

With over 100 signatures already pledging support, the petition is expected to be handed over to city politicians in the coming weeks. 

Calling for more to be done

London has already taken steps to help people sleeping rough on downtown streets and in nearby parks.

In early August, a hunger strike was held outside City Hall to raise awareness around homelessness in London. Advocacy group The Forgotten 519 was demanding that the City change the ways it treats camps and settlements of people living rough, and create indoor spaces to offer 24/7 relief support for unsheltered people. 

The City agreed that there needs to be solutions for people that need housing. They agreed that bylaw officers will only be involved with outdoor encampments at the request of a front line worker, water will be provided to people experiencing homelessness paid for by the city and one or more shower trailers would be made available as well. 

Despite these efforts, businesses on Richmond Street feel more work needs to be done.

“By helping the homeless people, we are helping the businesses,” said Lisa Sallabank, the owner of Salon Entrenous, who created the petition and brought it to other businesses along Richmond Street. 

Shops are open, but the doors are locked

Businesses along Richmond Street have experienced having smashed windows and break-ins. Some shops have started to lock their doors and only let customers in on a case-by-case basis. 

“We actually have to screen customers, which we never had to do,” said Alyson A’hearn, the store manager of Frankly Scarlett, which has been broken into twice over the past couple of months.

The first time the store was broken into, their windows were smashed, a mannequin was stolen and thousands of dollars in clothing was taken. A couple of weeks later, the store was broken into again and ransacked by people looking for cash.

A’hearn stressed that she feels that most homeless people in the area don’t cause problems, but it’s just some of them that behave violently and aggressively. She said the store is already starting to lose customers because of the environment that has been created in the downtown area. 

“We’re at the point where we are considering leaving here,” she said. 

Alyson A’hearn, the store manager of Frankly Scarlett, said the store has had to start locking their doors to help make their customers feel safe. (CBC News)

Another business on Richmond Street screening their customers is clothing shop HANGAR9, where customers also have to knock before entering. 

“We’ve had to lock our door now just to keep our clients and staff safe,” said Emily Ferguson, the store manager. 

She said the store is taking measures to prevent incidents before they happen.

Ferguson said at the beginning of the pandemic she was assaulted when someone came in the store and punched her in the jaw. She said the person was shoplifting and attacked her after they were confronted by store staff. 

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