“Changing the system takes time,” said Mayor Lucas Cleveland speaking exclusively with Today’s Northumberland on Monday, September 11, 2023.
Cleveland sat down and gave a candid interview about the encampments taking place in Cobourg for the last several weeks that have been putting a strain on resources.
A homeless encampment with approximately 20 people has set-up at several locations – each time being evicted.
Cleveland said resources are doing their best to find a solution to those that need assistance, but said even though the system may not be perfect, “it’s what we’ve got.”
“And we need to work within it, until such time where we can modernize, fix and create a better situation.”
For the last several weeks, County resources, municipal by-law officials and Cobourg Police have been dealing with the encampments on a regular basis daily.
“It is an unbelievable waste of resources with the current environment that is happening where we are evicting and moving and enforcing our bylaws.”
“We are spending an inordinate amount of time, money and energy.”
“All money and energy that could and should being going to help the most vulnerable individuals in our community.
Cleveland said the shelter system currently in place, “doesn’t seem to be acceptable to several of the organizers who are helping to move these individuals around.”
There is a “hierarchy” within the encampment, “which is preventing a lot of solutions from being realized.”
Cleveland said a group of individuals may have good intentions, but stated, “these individuals are pushing a very political and social agenda and are doing so at the expense of the most vulnerable in our community.”
Cleveland stated that every member of Cobourg and County Council wants to do better for the most vulnerable.
In the past Cleveland himself, has employed several people who are facing homelessness.
“I’m not scared of people that live in encampments, I don’t think they are evil people. I think they are people who need help and it’s our job as a community to provide that.”
Cleveland went through what the County has done since the last election including, increasing shelter capacity, investment in housing stability, purchasing a 22-unit apartment complex and more.
“I’m in no way. shape or form saying as a level of government we can’t do better.”
“But at the end of the day, we can’t force people to access the help that is available.”
“We have a limit of budget dollars, resources available and personal to dedicate to solving these problems.”
Cleveland showed Today’s Northumberland, seven drawers full of issues brought forward by taxpayers of Cobourg.
Among the files is one that involves finding a solution to homelessness.
“But that’s one file. And unfortunately at this time, that’s the only file that is getting worked on, because we are focusing our efforts on putting the most vulnerable into the system we have available.”
“Being expected to tailor a system to each and every individual that needs help is a unrealistic expectation.”
Cleveland said there is good news to share.
In the last two weeks, seven people went into the shelter service along with other people moving along with the continuum of care.
“We can have hundreds of people come to the mic and explain how Northumberland County Community Services have changed their lives for the better.”
But Cleveland said, like anything, the service can be better.
“But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the community has to simply allow these individuals to live wherever they chose.”
“We want to help them – but they, themselves also have to chose to help themselves.”
“And we as a community cannot force individuals into care.”
Cleveland states the by-laws will continue to be upheld and asks organizers, “instead of continuing to demand what is unattainable, that they instead work with us, and the individuals to get them into the system that we currently have.”
“And if these individuals are unable to access the services that are currently available – the question that needs to be asked – why are they are not able to access the services that are being provided?”
“At what point do we say enough is enough?”