After a short time-out in St. Thomas, homeless advocate Jason McComb is back on the road — continuing his Walking in the Free World cross-Canada trek.
On his lay-over, he met with MP Joe Preston, MPP Jeff Yurek and St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson to draw attention to the plight of the homeless in order to get them back contributing to society.
He was encouraged to approach all candidates in the upcoming municipal vote to peg them down on homeless initiatives.
During a similar round table discussion back in January, Jason made the following observation about the city’s seasonal shelter, Inn out of the Cold.
“Get them in, get them fed, get them showered, get them to bed. Then it’s here’s your breakfast and now out you go.
“When they close the doors in April there’s nobody there to say, ‘Let’s figure out what your options are beyond here.’ They should have been doing this before closing the doors.
“People who come into the shelter need to have a chore in the morning. Then there’s a sense of accomplishment. You respect your environment.”
Jason pulls no punches and that prompted the following response from Ken Brooks, vice-chairman of the shelter’s board of directors.
“That is not an accurate reflection of the assistance we provide to the shelter guests,” writes Brooks. “Besides providing meals, a shower and a place to sleep, our volunteers and staff try to determine if there are ways we can be of further assistance.
“The Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic provides a social worker to assist in connecting the guests to other services,” Brooks continues. They regularly assist the guests in accessing social assistance or finding more permanent accommodation.
“If there are medical issues, the staff and volunteers assist guests in accessing St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, as well as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Elgin Branch.
“We have connected to the Central Community Health Centre to provide services and they have attended with their mobile unit to assist with matters such as flu shots and foot care. We have computers at the shelter so guests can look for jobs as well as accommodation.
“Guests have been successful in obtaining social assistance, disability benefits, employment, transitional housing as well as permanent housing. We regularly provide vouchers so our guests can obtain lunch through CMHA, Elgin, since the shelter is not open during the day.
“During the off-season, some of our guests make contact with staff and agencies to access food or other needs.”
And he concludes, “There is so much more to do to address homelessness issues, but we want the community to be aware some things are being done to help.”
While the comments from Brooks may be seen as criticism, it can also be argued Jason’s walk and penchant for telling it like it is has at least opened up a dialogue.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Last week, we took the liberty of outing city developer Bob McCaig as the unidentified individual who is attempting to gain control of the mayor’s office and ultimately impact the decisions of council.
We went one step further and referred to aldermen Jeff Kohler and Mark Cosens as members of the McCaig posse.
All of this undertaken with the knowledge McCaig would be quick to fire up the BlackBerry and rip off a response.
Well, here is just a snippet of his outrage(?).
“You thingle thumbed Blackguard — to have, by inference associated me with the Liberal Party is quite the lowest that you, one of the meanest scribblers of all time, could reach,” asserts McCaig.
“I plan to write to your employers and demand your salary be cut in half!”
Not as bombastic a threat as anticipated. Most detractors want me struck off the payroll entirely.
In any event, we staunchly stand by our assertion McCaig has no qualms backing a candidate — such as Cosens — with deep Liberal roots.
Why else would McCaig have contributed $750 — as did long-time Liberal Steve Peters — to the Cosens campaign in 2010?
With that, I ask that my salary be fully restored!
And, next week we’ll address other concerns raised by McCaig, who is alarmed my aim is slightly off to the right of late.
KEEP AN EYE ON THIS ONE
Looks like a resolution to the war of words between aldermen Cliff Barwick and Lori Baldwin-Sands may be imminent.
This dates back to earlier this year and we only know about the incident because Ald. Cosens was so eager to discredit Barwick at the March 10 council meeting.
To recap, during an in-camera meeting Barwick and Baldwin-Sands engaged in a heated verbal exchange and now she is seeking disciplinary action and he is threatening legal action.
All fine and dandy except a municipal vote is two months away and anything that would discredit Barwick in his attempt to return to the mayor’s office would be seized upon by some.
And, as was the case with the trumped-up Sutherland Press building lawsuit against Barwick and others prior to the 2010 municipal election, laying bare allegations of misbehavior in a closed-camera session would be like pennies from heaven for certain individuals.
Rather than dealing with the myriad issues impacting St. Thomas, there are those most eager to again turn a trip to the polls into a down and dirty donnybrook.
Is it too much to ask that we determine this city’s direction over the next four years on worth rather than through character assassination?
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope