Two 310 Division Recommendations Disturb Cobourg Mayor

In Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Following a lengthy report at the March Northumberland County council meeting on the recommendations that arose from a string of community-engagement sessions on the prospective homeless shelter at 310 Division St., Cobourg Mayor Lucas Cleveland expressed misgivings about two of them.

Cleveland shared these apprehensions in discussions that followed the report, which was aimed at informing the agreement now being negotiated among the town, the county and Transition House for the operation of the facility.

Providing volunteer opportunities at this new location made Cleveland uneasy, as did the potential make-up of the Community Liaison Committee that will be formed.

How will volunteers be screened, he wondered.

“Oftentimes the thoughts and ideas of the volunteers within the community are antithetical to the professionals in the social-services delivery model,” he noted, asking how volunteers will be chosen. Though there have been reassurances that the site will not provide supervised injection services, for example, what if a volunteer supports such a use?

“We have volunteers working in conjunction with Transition House who are supporting an illegal encampment in Cobourg. We are already aware there are volunteers in the mix who are to date violating the law by supporting an illegal encampment in Cobourg. How are we going to prevent that, moving forward?” Cleveland wondered.

County staff mentioned the targeted recruitment efforts that will be made, as well as the training and orientation potential volunteers will be given. But in the end, Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore said, what volunteers do when volunteering is a separate matter from what they do when off-duty.

“What they do when they leave that organization is out of the control of that organization,” Moore said.

“We can say somebody is participating in giving somebody rides somewhere but chooses to speed when driving on their own time. We can’t prevent that.”

In the case of a volunteer with an actual criminal record, she continued, that might be flagged early in the process and flagged. Otherwise, any organization seeking volunteers makes its own decisions of what’s in their best interests and those of whom they serve.

The make-up of the CLC occasioned longer debate. In answer to Councillor Olena Hankivsky’s question about how it would be established, council heard that expressions of interest would be taken, applications submitted to Transition House and committee members chosen. To Cleveland, that seems like the organization is hand-picking the members of a body that will be overseeing its operations. Instead, he urged “making sure the CLC is representative of the community as a whole, and not necessarily supporters of Transition House.”

Cleveland labelled it “a conflict of interest, in my opinion.”

Moore said it would be modelled after best practices, with a mix of views from across the community – “not all in support, not all in opposition. The best conversations will happen when there’s all those folks around the table.”

Cleveland called for the operating agreement to set out some sort of approval process for CLC members.

“I just want to be very clear – I am not comfortable with these answers,” he stated.

“I believe on the CLC we need to have the Cobourg Police Service, the Cobourg bylaw (officers) and the Cobourg fire (department). That is not an option for me personally. You need to have the people who are dealing with the community and who understand the effects on the community. I would like to hear a commitment to that.”

“I’m not sure we will get that commitment today,” Warden Brian Ostrander said.

Moore said the matter would be discussed further in closed session, but she was not sure about including this representation in the context of a CLC – though they might be involved in other ways.

“These individuals come to the table with a lot of built-in authority, the others being community members, neighbours, who don’t have that authority,” she pointed out.

Director of Technology and Communications Kate Campbell said they would begin reviewing best practices and report back to county council with recommendations on how the CLC might be structured and how the recruitment process might unfold. She likened their role to the county’s advisory committees.

Cleveland asked for assurances that the doors of 310 Division will not open until the committee is formed. That is the intent, Moore said, though an ironclad commitment cannot be made because unanticipated events may sometimes arise that can compromise such a pledge.

“With the knowledge we have today, it is absolutely our intent that it will be in place when we open,” she said.

“I’m a little concerned in terms of how we are trying to dictate, placing our own judgments and our own demands for who is going to be on first and who is going to be on second,” former Warden Mandy Martin said.

“Let’s just work it through. We have come this far. So far, so good, as far as I’m concerned.”

“I think I am hearing you are asking us to give us time – I think that really undermines the legitimate expressions of the residents of Cobourg,” Cleveland replied.

“It is part of a process but, as elected leaders, it is our job to guide that process in a direction that our constituents want. I am taking about the need to have our police and our bylaw and our fire on that committee,” he said.

“They bring with them expertise and lived experience that can inform and contribute to the success of this project.”

“Lived experience is what we all bring to the table – these are things we have to balance, the lived experience of all kinds of people,” Martin said.

“In think, focusing on the CLC, you are missing the broader picture. You are missing the operations part. It’s like noise off to the side, and who’s going to serve the tea and coffee, when we have real services to provide.”

“My position really is, it’s an important part of this endeavour, and it’s an important part to ensure there’s a wide variety of lived experiences in that committee, because I think that committee is going to be very integral to how this modern shelter system continues to move forward in the community,” Hankivsky said.

“The hope would be, we don’t ever need to use the powers of the police and the bylaw and the fire,” Cleveland added.

“To me, having them participate in the advisory committee, we can avoid those problems down the road.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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