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 operative word in this week’s headline is art. Art on a grand scale. As in a massive movie-themed mural painted on Pier 9 of the Michigan Central Railroad trestle, which hosts the St. Thomas Elevated Park atop the impressive structure. The expansive visual treatment, to be undertaken by mural artist Daniel Bombardier, also known as Denial, is the brainchild of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation. Because the mural would be an alteration to the bridge designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, council’s consent is required and the matter will be on the agenda for Monday’s May 3 meeting. At an April 14 meeting of the Municipal Heritage Committee, support was given to the project, “subject to any paint or colour scheme being complementary to the historic character of the designated property.” Serge Lavoie, president of the elevated park promotes it as “a worthy addition to Canada’s first and only elevated park.”
Recognizing the need to fix “long-standing issues with how hospitals are funded,” the province this past week announced an additional $68 million in funding to support small- and medium-sized hospitals in Ontario. Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek unveiled the funding boost Thursday (Oct. 17) at the CASO station, indicating St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) will received $1.47 million under the investment geared to ending hallway healthcare. “Noting that it is a medium-sized hospital, the hospital has faced its fair share of problems throughout the years,” acknowledged Yurek, “in spite of its success in implementing the Lean program throughout the facility.” The Lean management program – adopted by the hospital several years ago under then CEO Paul Collins – maximizes patient care while minimizing waste at the facility. In other words, creating more value for patients with fewer resources.
With the opening for the season at the homeless shelter serving St. Thomas and Elgin, what was once deemed “possible and probable” is set to become a reality. A reality, mind you, that is a sad reminder of day-to-day life for the homeless and near homeless in the community. Gathered outside Inn Out of the Cold, housed at Central United Church, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston announced Thursday (Oct. 3) the short-term shelter that has served as a ray of hope to the homeless for the past 10 years is to become a year-round shelter service. This will be achieved through a two-model approach, explained executive director Lori Fitzgerald. “Our normal model is that we open November through April. We open at 6 p.m. for a hot meal and we offer some activities and programs to move people forward and connect them to services. “That is followed by a good night’s sleep in a warm place and a good breakfast before heading out at 8 a.m.”
Can’t imagine Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP would immediately suggest enjoyable to describe his first week as the province’s head of the environment, conservation and parks ministry. Just days after the cabinet shuffle that moved Yurek out of the transportation portfolio, he found himself in Halifax this past Thursday (June 27) at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. The gathering allowed ministers the opportunity to brainstorm on such issues as plastic waste, climate change, air quality, and wastewater. In a release issued following the discussions, Yurek noted “we are deeply disappointed that (federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine) Minister McKenna continues to focus on her tax plan, disguised as a climate change measure, and refuses to respect the legitimate ways provinces and territories, including Ontario, are tackling climate change in their own unique jurisdictions.”
Exactly four years ago, we wrote at length about workplace harassment at city hall, referring to it as a “toxic environment.” At that time, we postulated the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, should be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to a workplace environment. The issue in 2015 involved a city employee we identified as ‘Dave’ and his allegations of verbal and physical abuse involving fellow employees and managers. In a conversation in June of that year with human resources manager Graham Dart, he conceded “As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that. “There is no expectation or requirement of that. But there is an obligation on our part — especially under the Occupational Health & Safety Act — that we address harassment in the workplace.”
After reading the unabridged version of the Dobbie Report, it’s not so much the concerns raised by the author, London consultant Tim Dobbie, are troublesome — and they most certainly are — it’s the manner in which the document itself was withheld from the previous council.
And we’re not certain all members of this council received “a thorough presentation of this report and an implementation update as part of their council orientation,” a critical recommendation of the report.
But let’s step back for a moment to get up to speed on the report itself.
The organizational review of the environmental services department — budgeted at $20,000 — was undertaken in the summer of 2014 and involved interviews with staff, department heads, members of council and outside stakeholders. Along with 10 sweeping recommendations, the review details major issues facing the City of St. Thomas, including the almost $300 million infrastructure deficit.
A highly edited version was presented to the outgoing council on Nov. 3, 2014. The report was endorsed that evening by a slim 5-3 margin with aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden opposed.
Friday afternoon we received a copy of a release from the Holiday Fantasy of Lights committee advising it is pulling the plug on the popular Pinafore Park winter festival.
“For 21 years, Fantasy of Lights has made Pinafore Park a beautiful winter wonderland of lights and display, with many families and people coming to the park to enjoy,” the release notes.
“With the retirement of our chairman and many senior committee members two years ago, we had to fold for a year. With a lot of effort over the last few months, we got a new chairman and some committee members, and had great ideas for the upcoming year.
“We have worked hard to get up and running for this season, but with all of the challenges that have been handed to us from the City and Parks Department, we have decided to fold the Fantasy of Lights for good.” Continue reading →
Not unlike the vehicles using them, the city’s consolidated courthouse parking program has required several major tuneups over the past year or so.
And the tinkering is nowhere near completion, based on the frustration level at Metcalfe Gardens where staff, residents and visitors are calling for a policy overhaul.
Prior to the opening of the new court facility in March, 2014, friends and relatives visiting the seniors residence could always park on the surrounding streets with nary a worry of being ticketed.
All that changed when the city and province reached an agreement whereby 315 parking spaces would be provided within a 300-metre radius of the courthouse.
That led to construction of the Crocker St. parking lot and several along the north side of Centre St., combined with a major crackdown on free on-street parking in the courthouse neighbourhood. Continue reading →