By Allison Elkin
Hamilton, Ontario’s Barton Street is barely recognizable from its former self. A layer of grey dust sits on the pharmacies, bookstores, tailor shops and billiard halls that thrived in the 1960s. Differentiating between the closed and abandoned brick retail buildings is difficult—“We’re Closed” signs hang indefinitely on storefront doors, and other properties have turned residential with absentee landlords. This 3.4-kilometre stretch is known as a place to score heroin, prostitutes and, for some journalists, sources. Molly Hayes, a Hamilton Spectator reporter, exits one of the new businesses on the street, a coffee shop known by its address (541 Barton) and its pay-it-forward payment system using buttons from clothing. She walks along, pointing to the provincial jail, a steel factory and Hamilton General Hospital. She soon spots one of her sources from a story reported last summer about Pauline, a 24-year-old woman who died from a heroin overdose. At the time she was writing on Pauline’s death, Hayes was about the same age as the woman.
Allison Elkin is the Spring 2015 co-chief copy editor of the RRJ.