Statement by Northumberland County Warden Brian Ostrander About Recent Online Commentary

In City Hall, Local

“Northumberland continues to face the significant challenge of rising homelessness.
Today, (June 14, 2024) like communities across the province, we are witnessing the convergence of multiple crises – an opioid addiction crisis, a housing affordability crisis, and the residual effects of a global pandemic, including a dramatic rise in the overall cost of living. These issues have been building for years, and people have been hard hit.

This reality has manifested most visibly in the form of an encampment at the former Brookside property, in the Town of Cobourg. This encampment has laid bare the significant challenges we are facing as a community.

Public encampment has understandably caused concern, frustration, and distress for our residents. People are concerned for the safety and well-being of their unsheltered neighbours, as well as the broader community.

Recently, however, we have seen some of these concerns take an unproductive turn. There has been a rising tone of hostility directed towards those living unsheltered. Blog posts and social media commentary have intensified this negativity, with inflammatory language and unfounded accusations.

This is disheartening for those already suffering. At worst, it is dangerous. I am urging everyone to approach this situation with compassion and humanity. Hate speech and discrimination against those experiencing homelessness only serve to deepen divides and hinder our efforts to find real solutions.

One such significant solution will be the modernization of homeless shelter services at 310 Division Street, Cobourg. Northumberland County and the Town of Cobourg are currently finalizing an agreement to support the relocation of services to this new facility. This partnership is a critical step toward addressing the urgent need for more comprehensive homelessness services in our community.

I hear and understand the frustration. I want to assure you that the County is using every resource at our disposal to address chronic homelessness. From enhancing shelter spaces and investing in street outreach services to implementing rent supplement programs and building rent-geared-to-income housing, our approached is comprehensive. We are also working within municipal networks to engage the provincial and federal governments on funding models, and advocate for increased investment in addiction and mental health services to get at the heart of this matter.

This situation does stem from broad systemic challenges that will require time to address meaningfully. I encourage everyone to join us in this effort by directing your energy into positive actions that support local agencies and organizations working tirelessly to aid those in need. There are numerous ways we can each help make a difference for, and stimulate change in, our community:

· Volunteer: Many local organizations need volunteers to assist with outreach, food distribution, support services, and non-profit board governance.

· Donate: Contributions of money, food, clothing, and other essentials to reputable organizations can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need.

· Advocate: Support policies and initiatives that address the root causes of homelessness, such as affordable housing, mental health services, and addiction treatment.

I invite community members to also continue engaging with County Council. Share your experience and input on constructive ways we can improve outcomes – whether in-person by making delegations at meetings, via letters or email, or by participating in community consultations. Our community’s strength has always been in our ability to come together, support one another, and seek compassionate solutions.

Work is progressing to improve services and supports for people in need in Northumberland. The fact remains, more work is yet to be done. Let’s turn our collective concern into positive action.

By working together, we can help those in need access safer, more stable living situations.”

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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