Poverty in Winnipeg: The age of poverty on Selkirk Avenue

Payday loan stores a problem, says city councillor

Kimberly Trieu

Boarded up signs and broken windows line the once vibrant Selkirk Avenue in the heart of Winnipeg’s North End.

Retail stores replaced by not-for-profit agencies, banks replaced by payday loan stores and a dangerous reputation are often seen as the perpetrators of poverty in the neighbourhood.

Ross Eadie, city councillor for the Mynarski ward, grew up in the area and said that over time the people with successful businesses in the area moved away.

“The banks moved out of there because the people who use banks were not there anymore,” he said.

With banks absent from the avenue, there are a number of payday loan stores, including Money Mart, where residents can cash their cheques and do their financial transactions.

“The Money Mart takes a big portion of the little money these people do have, which is a big problem,” said Eadie, who is also the chair of the Selkirk Avenue B.I.Z.

Some business owners on Selkirk agree with Eadie.

“It sort of takes advantage of the people. If a guy has a $100 cheque to cash, you don’t charge him $10 or $15 for Christ’s sake,” said Jim Major, owner of the Merchant’s Hotel. “The guy has a family to feed, bills to pay.”

But some other business owners feel that the area’s poverty is perpetuated by the availability of cheap late night liquor at Major’s hotel.

“Closing the hotel is a stepping stone to getting more business down here,” said Russell Meier, owner of The Donut House on Selkirk Avenue.

Eadie said that one problem for existing businesses is that there is no parking available on the avenue and people don’t want to use the side streets because they are not seen as safe.

He said that something needs to be facilitated to get people from outside the area shopping on Selkirk.

“The second worst thing to look at next to boarded up buildings on Selkirk would be a giant parking lot,” he said.

This is part of the Poverty in Winnipeg feature. Its companion pieces are “Recognizing women’s poverty” by Erin Vosters (http://uniter.ca/view/6247/) and “Food bank usage shows scope of poverty in the city” by Nick Ternette (http://uniter.ca/view/6248/) .

Published in Volume 65, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 31, 2011)

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