‘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

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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

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.”

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Is this how you promote living downtown?


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It’s taken close to a week but the city sent a building inspector over to 554 Talbot St. to ascertain what needs to be undertaken to at least bring one or both of the ‘forgotten’ apartments across from city hall up to minimum property standards.
This follows on the heels of two visits by fire prevention officers last week to document fire code shortcomings in the upper units adjacent to the former Capitol Theatre.
So are the four residents any closer to more hospitable accommodation?
Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd said Friday, “The smoke alarms were installed and the junk and everything moved out of the hallway. I think the only thing left is the owner had to order fire doors.”
Take note if you happen to live in any of the similar upper apartments along Talbot Street. Second-story apartments only require one way out, advised Todd. Such is the case at 554 Talbot Street.
“Third storey, then they require a fire escape,” explained Todd.
Do all units downtown meet this requirement?

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Round 2 of demolition derby announced


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We’ve been down this road before and the last time around it led us right to the courts.
That’s in legal and not tennis.
City manager Wendell Graves contacted us late Friday afternoon to announce the city has a tender out for demolition of the Sutherland Press building.
“We don’t know where this is all going to materialize yet,” Graves was quick to add.
“We are following a fairly streamlined process here and that is out on the street for bids. We’ll see what happens when we get to that point.”
He confirmed there has been no activity at the site after the emergency order issued following partial collapse of the roof in September was lifted late last year.
The tender bids are due back early in February, Graves advised. Continue reading

Don’t worry, he’s not throwing in the towel


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We caught up with Jason McComb this week after his return to St. Thomas from Edmonton where he halted, for the winter, his cross-Canada trek to raise awareness for homeless issues.
He is heading to the North Bay area for a well-deserved retreat to recharge mentally and physically.
If you have seen Jason this week you know he is extremely gaunt, although he never was a Pillsbury dough boy
To allay any fears, Jason assures he hasn’t lost any enthusiasm for his Walking in the Free World undertaking. Continue reading