The city’s ‘shiny, new nickel’ continues to generate questions on who should build affordable housing


city_scope_logo-cmykThe question was posed recently by Peter Ostojic of Walter Ostojic & Sons Ltd.
“Just do not understand why the city is involved in building affordable housing units themselves.”
The former mayor of St. Thomas was referencing the community and social services hub now under construction at 230 Talbot St.
The subject was broached again this past Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the reference committee meeting in which city manager Wendell Graves updated council on Phase 2 of the project, which will front onto Queen Street.
With Phase 1 nearing completion this fall – “something Graves described as a shiny, new nickel for us” – he presented a conceptual business case to council members.
The structure would contain a minimum of 48 housing units on two floors with the possibility of more units should the structure be expanded to a third or fourth floor.
The estimated cost of constructing each unit is $225,000 with 24 of them renting out at $500 or so per month and another 24 geared to income at approximately $300 per month.

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This sign remains in place until the Ford government rolls out something to help autistic kids


city_scope_logo-cmykA blue-and-white sign in the front window at 378 Talbot St., at first glance, appears deceptively hospitable.
Its message, however, elicits a long second study.
“Welcome To Ontario
Open For Business
Closed For Autism”
Propped up against the glass in the former downtown branch of TD Canada Trust, the sign marks the office of CoField Inc.
Co-owned by Lyndsay Collard and Alison Ditchfield, the pair head up a team of instructor therapists who provide Intensive Behavioural Intervention to children with autism and their families.
Which has the two senior therapists butting heads with the provincial government over autism funding.
Hence the sign.

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Provincial dollars to support St. Thomas crisis intervention team because ‘mental health is truly a community issue’


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a ballooning caseload and the threat of budgetary dollars evaporating next month, yesterday’s (May 24) announcement the provincial funding tap is to be turned on couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the local branch of the CMHA and the St. Thomas Police Service.
The significance of the announcement was underscored through the appearance of a pair of Ford government heavyweights on hand for the investment news.
Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones, accompanied by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott, took to the podium outside the police station on CASO Crossing to announce $70,775 in funding that will allow a CMHA caseworker to continue working with the police service’s mobile crisis intervention team. Continue reading

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

‘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