(Today’s Northumberland file photo)
By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Cobourg council is struggling with making it clear to member of the community how engaged they are with the encampment at the former Brookside Youth Centre.
The discussion developed at this week’s meeting as they received a letter of concern from Johnny Percolides over how crime and open drug use are affecting the town on many levels, from tourism to community safety. But when council discussed the correspondence, the tent village of the homeless on the vacated grounds of the former correctional facility dominated.
“It’s a large and growing concern in our community,” Mayor Lucas Cleveland said, adding that his own inbox is “flooded with hundreds of similar e-mails.
“At this time, it’s appropriate to say there’s no one on this council no one on this staff who is burying their heads in the sand on this issue. There are complete and open lines of communication between the province and multiple ministries, our MPP, myself, our staff – this is an on-going concern for all of us,” he said.
“These are human beings in our community who are both valuable and cared for, and there’s no place for callousness,” the mayor insisted.
“This is taking up an inordinate amount of time and resources. Over the coming days, you will see reports on the scope of the cost of that situation, reports with potential solutions but, ladies and gentlemen, this is government, It takes time. The situation is important to all of us, and we’ll be addressing it in due time.
“I just wanted to go on the record and say there’s no one who is not addressing the situation. There’s no one who is not paying attention, and there’s no one who’s pretending it’s not going on.”
Chief Administrative Officer Tracey Vaughan said the situation has a lot of moving parts.
The town is working with the owner of the property, Infrastructure Ontario, being bound to a great extent by direction from them – and at the same time, deploying such resources as emergency-response teams to ensure the safety of both the encampment members and neighbouring residents.
“I know people want an answer and they want to see solutions deployed as effectively as possible. To do that, we have to take a team approach and work collaboratively to the best of our ability,” Vaughan said.
She also acknowledged the need for an effective avenue through which news on this situation, as it develops, can be effectively reported.
Councillor Miriam Mutton said citizens who are sufficiently concerned to write a letter deserve more of a response than to have the letter, as the saying goes, received for information purposes.
The mayor wondered if the concern around this issue is sufficient that some kind of public meeting would be an appropriate response. He made a commitment to have this discussion with each member of council, and then share their thoughts at a future council meeting.