In a deputation to city council this past Monday, members were updated on capacity issues at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. President and CEO Karen Davies stressed that ahead of the pandemic, hospital staff and administration were already struggling as they dealt with capacity issues.
She adds it was not abnormal for the hospital to be at 100 per cent occupancy or beyond.
As noted during the presentation, there were close to 7,800 admissions last year. The hospital has 179 beds, with 30 to 40 of those beds occupied by patients who, the belief is, should have outside care.
Davies points out, with the announcement of the EV gigaplant coming to the city – and with it significant population growth – that will only exacerbate matters.
“We’ve got a great story to tell,” reminds Davies. “We were at capacity ahead of the pandemic.
“We did well throughout the pandemic but again, as we talked about the other night (at the council meeting), we’re maximized in our space here and that’s with our current population base.
“And we know it’s growing and we know we’ve got some significant investments coming to Elgin county that are going to put more pressure on that.”
Based on the demonstrated success as a Built for Zero Canada community and the recent recognition of St. Thomas-Elgin as the second community in Canada to achieve functional zero veteran homelessness, city manager Sandra Datars Bere had the opportunity this past week to showcase local efforts to end homelessness.
She participated in a three-person presentation Thursday at the Ontario Small Urban Municipalities (OSUM) conference in Paris, Ontario.
The session recognized the challenges of homelessness are not exclusive to large urban centres.
Datars-Bere highlighted some of the best practices being employed to address homelessness in St. Thomas and Elgin starting with compiling a quality By- Name List of approximately 130 individuals identified as actively experiencing homelessness in the community.
It is updated frequently and supports local processes for matching people to resources and making data-informed decisions.
Multiple service providers meet bi-weekly to review this list to match individuals to available resources.
The YWCA St.Thomas-Elgin has unveiled its case support for Project Tiny Hope, an affordable housing partnership with Doug Tarry Homes and Sanctuary Homes. Under the heading, “Now more than ever, our community needs affordable housing,” comes the following statistic, “The waitlist for subsidized housing is over 1100 households translating to a 5-10 year wait.” Their support paper goes on to stress, “The new YWCA affordable housing community is more than just housing, it’s a new beginning.” The YWCA provides housing for youth, women and men with five independent apartment units and 42 congregate living units within St. Thomas. Project Tiny Hope will nearly double that number. “Safe and stable housing is the foundation of a healthy and vibrant community,” advises Lindsay Rice, YWCA executive director. “Project Tiny Hope will revitalize 21 Kains Street in the downtown core of St. Thomas and create a thriving community where youth, adults and families live and grow for years to come.”
As he campaigns for a seat on city council, Devon Church confidently proclaims when elected, not if.
Specifically, “When elected, I will be accountable, dedicated and propel council towards innovation and positive change.”
Church is a registered nurse at Southwestern Public Health who bemoans the lack of lived experience on the present council.
Church feels members of council “were mostly folks from a higher income level trying to figure out what to do with folks from lower incomes.”
Every candidate points to the need for solutions to issues plaguing the downtown core.
Church offers alternatives.
“I believe we need a downtown drop-in space that is accessible to all, that includes food and beds.”
But it is not the existing emergency shelter known as The Inn.
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After pitching in with the Heather Jackson campaign team in the June provincial vote, Timothy Hedden is turning his attention to this fall’s municipal vote.
This is his second run for a seat on city council. He was in a crowded field of 19 candidates, finishing 15th with 1,711 votes in the 2018 municipal election.
Hedden tells us he learned plenty from that unsuccessful run and now has a clearer understanding of the role of a city councillor.
“It’s an interesting role that I think I understand a lot better now having been through the process once and watching council meet and paying attention to the things they actually do.”
His understanding of a councillor’s responsibilities and mandates has matured over the past four years, and his campaigning on the plight of the homeless likewise has taken on a sharper focus.
“You might be able to stamp out not homelessness entirely because it is a revolving thing, but I think you can get to the point where there are very, very few individuals that we are having to help out.
It has been a significant week for housing news in St. Thomas.
A pair of announcements mid-week covered off a broad swath of the residential spectrum.
At Wednesday’s site plan control committee meeting, conditional approval was granted to Fast Forward Ventures of London for their 14-storey, 162-unit apartment building to rise on the south end of the former Timken Canada property near the intersection of First Avenue and Talbot Street.
The Timken plant closed in 2013 and was demolished and the site cleared in 2017.
The next day, the province announced $3 million in funding to develop 20 supportive housing units inside Phase 2 of the city’s social services and housing hub now under construction at 16 Queen Street.
Let’s take a closer look at both developments – which Mayor Joe Preston described as “one more step in attacking the city’s housing shortage.”
There is a 29-year-old St. Thomas resident who has been arrested 29 times since 2019, with 77 Criminal Code charges, 34 of those related to property crime, six related to trespassing, four drug-related charges and 39 fail-to-comply charges.
Twenty-six of those were withdrawn. And overall, 45 charges were withdrawn.
St. Thomas Police have checked on this individual’s well-being 19 times, including for overdoses and that person was reported to police 63 times as an unwanted or suspicious person because that person experienced homelessness or still does.
As they say on television crime dramas, those are the facts.
However, this is a real-life situation and not drawn from a reality show.
And it’s the type of ongoing police interaction that has St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge calling for a two-stream justice system.
There is no doubt plenty of support in the city for a community and aquatic centre. To the extent, if you add all the bells and whistles sought by the public, the projected cost would be well more than the estimated $25 million just for an aquatic centre.
This is all contained in a report to council for Monday’s (Dec. 20) meeting from the technical committee struck to “create a physical concept plan and determine the location for a new community and aquatic centre in order to be prepared for future funding opportunities by December 2021.”
To prepare its report, the committee looked at the Bostwick Community Centre, East Lions Community Centre, Komoka Wellness Centre, South London Community Pool and the Stoney Creek Community Centre.
Well, it seems paper ballots are just so last election.
After substantial discussion Monday (Nov. 15) city council unanimously favoured a report from city clerk Maria Konefal calling for an all-electronic vote in the 2022 municipal election.
In other words, constituents will be able to vote by internet or telephone with no paper ballots. To accommodate those who prefer to vote in person, a system of mobile voting kiosks with computer tablets will be established.
Konefal advised there is some work to be done on the latter option but it will be in place for the municipal vote with clear directions on how to participate in this fashion.
In the 2018 municipal vote, electors cast paper ballots at one of four voting locations on voting day itself.
There was no in-person voting using paper ballots during the advance voting period and no electronic voting on voting day.