The St. Thomas and Elgin Housing and Homelessness Plan: Beyond the Numbers


city_scope_logo-cmykOn Jan. 1 of 2014, the city implemented a 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan, as mandated by the province’s Housing Services Act.
The goal of the plan – in conjunction with Elgin county – is to work toward meeting the housing and support needs of the community while eliminating long-term homelessness.
At Monday’s (May 13) meeting, a mid-term report was presented to council detailing four strategic directions: increase housing supply options; provide supports to keep people in the sustainable housing they currently have; enhance the current system to prevent homelessness and when homeless, “rapidly” move people into stable housing; and pursue community partnerships.
Let’s focus in on the homeless strategy as 2014 was a significant first year with the rollout of the city’s plan. Continue reading

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‘Solving the problem of homelessness requires a wider focus’


city_scope_logo-cmykOur most recent posting made reference to the homeless enumeration discussion that transpired during the Oct. 1 council meeting. 
The survey was mandated by the province, and the city retained the services of OrgCode Consulting, which works with non-profits, government, private companies and non-governmental organizations in an effort to achieve positive social change, according to their website.
During last Monday’s council discussion Ralph West, the city’s housing services administrator, conceded those involved in the enumeration did not offer homeless individuals coming forward to participate in the survey any information on services available to them “in a systematic way.”
We referred to that as a “missed opportunity.”
In an email comment to City Scope, West writes our observation was “completely appropriate.”
West included pertinent background information and so the entire content of his email is reprinted below and we thank him for his follow-up on a serious issue facing this council and the new slate to begin their four-year term in December. Continue reading

Casting your vote for St. Thomas city council: The ideal candidate “is someone who is amenable to working with others to try and get things done.”


city_scope_logo-cmykWith advance polling for the Oct. 22 municipal vote set to begin Wednesday (Oct. 10), it’s time to examine several strategies before you cast your ballot to elect individuals (hopefully) who can be trusted to best shape the future of the city over the next four years.
Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, City Scope consulted the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encourages voters to maximize the impact of their electoral decision.
Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.”
In the race for councillors, voters can cast up to a maximum of eight votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse eight candidates. Continue reading

Candidates in the Oct. 22 municipal vote share their vision for St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykAgainst a panoramic backdrop of the city’s rich railway heritage, 15 of 19 candidates vying for the opportunity to shape the future of St. Thomas fielded a bevy of questions Wednesday (Sept. 26) at a sparsely attended town hall forum.
As was the case a week ago at a mayoral candidates forum, the event was hosted by three multi-media journalists and the guiding hand behind the city’s newest media outlet.
STEAM Education Centre board member Andrew Gunn served as moderator at the Elgin County Railway Museum while a trio of 16-year-old high school students – Jenn Klassen, Maddie King and Alex Popen – peppered the councillor hopefuls with questions covering a broad spectrum, from economic development to arts and culture and social issues. Continue reading

‘Something needs to change with regard to the healthcare system and how it is being managed’ – MPP Jeff Yurek


city_scope_logo-cmykResidents of St. Thomas and Elgin are being “shortchanged” on physiotherapy services, charges Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
He stood up in the Ontario Legislature this week to question the Kathleen Wynne government on the closing of MobilityFit Physiotherapy in St. Thomas, one of only two such services in the city funded through OHIP.
Yurek alleges both the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have “refused to act on the impending loss of service.”
Yurek added, “When contacted for a status update, both the SW LHIN and ministry responded with the same talking points. Neither would state whether or not the clinic is closing.” Continue reading

More sensitivity and less stunt when reaching out to the homeless


city_scope_logo-cmykThe promotion was called Sleepless In Our City, a well-intentioned fundraiser for the United Way of Elgin-St. Thomas. In capsule form, former MP Joe Preston and Tim Smart, the regional sales manager for a couple of local radio stations, were going to bundle up and spend the night sleeping – if possible – in the back seat of their respective cars. In the case of Tim, a Honda Civic.
(Full disclosure here, I spent several years as a volunteer on the United Way campaign cabinet and the entire team is to be applauded for raising in excess of $485,000 in this year’s campaign, as announced Friday evening.)
The media release from the United Way noted, “In Elgin St. Thomas, 20% of home owners and 42% of renters were spending more than 30% of their household income on shelter costs.”

Continue reading

Joe Roberts is pushing back to change the system


15jt01robertsjpgFor Joe Roberts, pushing his shopping cart across Canada is the ultimate in paying it forward.

On Day 199 of his cross-country trek to raise awareness of youth homelessness, 49-year-old Roberts stood on the steps of city hall over the noon hour and talked about legacy.

“I’ve reached a point in my life where I wanted to pay it forward,” advised Roberts who, in his earlier years, was anything but a role model: homeless, addicted to drugs and living under a bridge in Vancouver.

“Seems like when we get to our late 40s we start asking questions about legacy and I wanted to do something with the story to point to what we needed to help prevent other young people from experiencing some of this. It’s not everyone who is fortunate to have a mom like mine.” Continue reading