310 Division Feedback Will Inform Eventual Operations

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Input from the recent series of engagements and information sessions with members of the public on the building at 310 Division Street will be the subject of a report in the near future, and will also be taken into account during the actual planning for an agreement governing its operations as a shelter.

The pledge was made by Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore at the February meeting of Northumberland County council, where members were brought up to date on plans for services at the recently purchased Cobourg property.

“We also are in the process of working on various documents for funding-contribution agreements, what those will look like, and incorporating as much content as possible from the feedback we have heard to date,” Moore added.

The report was made as council reviewed a list of more than 25 pieces of correspondence from members of the public on this topic. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, Cobourg Mayor Lucas Cleveland pointed out – his own council has received more than 100 similar e-mails that he hasn’t bothered forwarding to county council because their concerns are well covered in the correspondence being accepted for information.

Both Port Hope Mayor Olena Hankivsky and Alnwick-Haldimand Township Mayor John Logel said their respective councils have already passed motions of support for Cobourg’s resolution requesting a three-way agreement – among the county, the town and Transition House – on these future operations. Hankivsky expressed the hope that it could be “a template for future projects which might involve county-and-lower-municipality arrangements, whether it’s for housing or other social support.”

Cleveland spoke up to clarify some of the misinformation he has heard about the project. In fact, he said, “Cobourg council has no intention of dictating how social services are delivered.”

He described the service agreement he hopes for as a way of addressing the concerns of Cobourg residents with an in-advance agreed-upon setting out of areas of responsibility.

Logel asked about a similar project the Municipality of Durham has undertaken in Whitby, asking if county staff had been in touch with them. Moore said there had been conversations, including a virtual meeting.

“We went into a number of items addressed in that agreement, and a number of the differences,” she said.

For one thing, the property is much larger, “more of a campus with a number of services located on the property.”

Moore referred to an agreement already in place between the county and Transition House governing its Chapel Street property (located just around the corner from 310 Division). She said it will be changed “because of the different operations we envision on the site – how it will function, service delivery, how safety and security are designed into those operations. A lot of those things are already part of the contribution agreement.”

Looking ahead to a new agreement for 310 Division, Hankivsky said, “What exactly are you envisioning? Obviously the status quo is not tenable for many constituents living in Cobourg.”

Moore said the new operation will include a warming room, “as well as expected wrap-around services co-located on the site.”

In their planning, they have identified that there are two streams of comment – how, specifically, community concerns about operations will be addressed and also concerns about the larger issues of homelessness (with many of these remarks including comments on the encampments that have sprung up) and the behaviours that are on public display instead of kept behind the closed doors of one’s home.

“Which behaviours are more related to the shelter operation, and which are broader community concerns – we’re looking at what is in the scope and control of the shelter operation.”

These are all social-services issues, Cleveland argued, and therefore within the scope of the county.

“Many are also related to health-care issues – criminal activity, nuisance behaviours,” Moore responded.

“There’s a broad range that requires partnership and multiple levels of government, as well as multiple community agencies.”

Cleveland said things like loitering and petty crime “are happening because of the centralization of services. What exactly are our on-street supports? We are hearing that revolves around Cobourg Bylaw (officers) and Cobourg Police.

“If it falls to the Cobourg Police, why are we using Cobourg tax dollars to fund our police to provide social services in Cobourg when that should be the responsibility of the county?

“When a shelter like this is put into a community, there are increased expenses to the community, which maybe should be supplemented from this level of government.”

Hankivsky called for “a holistic vision reflected in whatever agreement is there, because certainly the heart of what we are hearing from the community is that Transition House and 310 Division are not islands of themselves. They are situated in communities, and that does have repercussions for those communities that do have very, very legitimate concerns. And I think we have a very unique opportunity to have a new chapter in our relationship with the community and constituents, and bring them on-board to this project.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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