A father and his young daughter walk down First Street in downtown Duluth. The little child bends to the ground and pops back up with a curious “Daddy! Look what I found!”.
A used hypodermic needle.
The little girl could have repeated this more than a 1/2 dozen times in their one block stroll. A disturbing problem on First Street and much of downtown Duluth.
If you’ve been to the Duluth Chamber building, you’ve probably seen the worst of it – used hypodermic needles laying on the street and sidewalk, panhandling, and people using drugs, urinating, and defecating on the street.
The hypodermic needle problem isn’t new. In fact the Duluth Police Department posted about found needles and the related dangers in a Facebook Post in March of 2016. Four years and mostly likely thousands more needles later there doesn’t seem to be any action by the city. Now the problem has grown to the disgusting heights.
The downtown area of a city should showcase its best. It should be bustling with business people, shoppers, and tourist by day and buzzing with couples and families dining and enjoying the nightlife each evening. But the sparkle of Duluth’s downtown has been tarnished with homelessness and the blight they bring.
Business and property owners have complained to the city for years that their panhandling ordinance has been negatively impacting their businesses. The panhandling ordinance was reversed two years ago in July 2018 allowing people to panhandle and sleep in their cars in Duluth. The ordinance hadn’t been enforced for a while due to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that ruled begging for money a first amendment right.
After the initial shock and disgust at what is going on downtown, we’re only left with questions:
Why has the problem gotten exponentially worse over the past 4 years? Where is the clean team? Why doesn’t the Duluth Chamber advocate for the downtown businesses by pushing for action by the city or police department – either cleaning the area, moving people away from businesses, or reinstating the panhandling ordinance? What can CHUM do to protect their business neighbors and visitors from the hazards their clients bring to the downtown area?
Businesses in Duluth struggle enough with taxes, construction, and parking. They shouldn’t have to clean up needles each morning and warn customers to watch their step before stopping by.
Duluth’s dirty little secret can no longer be ignored. It’s time for the city to act.
Watch for Part 2 of The Problem on 1st Street coming next week.
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