7th Street Controversey

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

Those opposed say the relocation would destroy the economic renaissance happening on 7th Street. Those in favor say it's a service that can't be ignored.

"There's a great deal of investment going on by the city and by private investors...a great deal of hope and promise is on the horizon, and it's being threatened by this location," says Midtown District Association President and CEO Bill Mohr.

Mohr says moving the Total Health Awarness Team Needle Exchange to the 7th Street corridor will be detrimental to the redeveloping community.

"It is something this community has been trying to get rid of diligently for many, many years and has been quite successful in cleaning this neighborhood up, and making it more comfortable for regular people to utilize--in a commerce sense," says Mohr.

"THAT" is an HIV-prevention and counseling group. Supporters say the needle-exchange and condom-distribution programs are preventing the spread of HIV and other diseases. Stanley Campbell, Director of Rockford Urban Ministries says "THAT" has taken more drug users and prostitutes off the street than any other rehab program in the city.

"From a public health perspective, this is a type of thing that will protect the entire community as a whole. I also believe these people deserve medical care and deserve the treatment they need. And many of them haven't had good experiences in traditional medical settings like doctors' offices and clinics," says Troy Brown, member of the Fair Trade Store Board of Directors.

"We don't have an argument with the public health issue, we have an argument with the idea that it's very negative for that to take place in the middle of a commercial district," says Mohr.

"THAT" would be located next door to the new Fair Trade store at 201 7th Street. Campbell says there would be a discreet entrance and no one would be bothered by the program participants. Kim Smith manages the Valkommen Plaza and says a majority of her 185 tenants don't want "THAT" a block away.

"I have had instances where they've been harassed by drug abusers, prostitutes and things like that--and I'm really concerned for their safety," says Smith.

Supporters say that is a doorway to recovery but opponents say the don't want the recovery process happening in their neighborhood.

"THAT" and the Fair Trade store haven't moved in to their new locations yet. So far, the city hasn't granted the permits. 160 tenants at Valkommen Plaza have signed a petition, asking that the needle exchange not be relocated to the 200 block of 7th Street.


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