Day 2 | Everyone’s Responsibility: Canada’s Challenge with Street Issues
Canada’s downtowns and main streets are being challenged and changed before our eyes because of COVID-19. This dire situation is being compounded by social issues like mental health and addictions, unemployment and lack of housing. This session—led by IDA Canada, will discuss the issues and the solutions from different cities across Canada.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:05] Hi, everybody. I’m Mary Rowe back from, uh from. Where am I from, back, to back to the future. Back to the front of the Canadian Urban Institute. Happy to have so many partnering organizations. I just have to say that I think we have 60 partners on this summit. Some provided financial support, some provided content support, some provided both. And, you know, we then had other partners approach just to say, Hey, can we get in? Can we get involved? So we’re hoping that this will be an annual thing for us to do a summit on, on the city and on whatever our particular topics are. That’s not that we won’t convene at other times because of course we will through city talk and through other platforms. But I just appreciate the numbers of folks that responded so positively to saying yes. Let’s take a couple of days or couple of half days at the end of January when we’re besieged by all sorts of things. But let’s take that time together to think about a particular aspect of urban life and particularly in this post-COVID period. Let’s talk about downtown. So thanks to everybody who stepped in and did that made it possible, but also just have thrown their shoulder to the wheel to make this a really valuable discussion. And as I suggested, just the beginning of what the priorities need to be for 2022 as we recover the country and the role that cities need to play in that. So the International Downtown Association has been tremendous partner of CUI, from since I started here, and I’ve been very appreciative of Ken and his colleagues, many of whom were on the several the sessions that have preceded us in the chat signalling to you telling you what IDA is doing in this session, specifically on street issues, is hosted by the IDA and they’ve brought together a really interesting group of folks. So I’m going to ask the moderator and the chief ringleader here, Ken Kelly, to come back in. He’s the project manager at IDA Canada. He’s going to moderate this discussion and we have Christine Lowe, Mark Garner, Craig Cooper, and Derek Pace and to provide their insights and I’m sure build on. I know that a number of these folks have been on previous sessions through yesterday and today. So, Ken, over to you. Great to see you. Thanks for your support, as always, and for the work that you’re doing in connecting the Canadian experience with what’s going on internationally. It’s such an important discussion. We’re not alone in this. Downtowns are struggling all over the place and in different ways, and we’re part of a global scene, an urban scene. So I’m very appreciative to have your leadership here. I’m going to pass to you and have a great conversation and thanks to your guests for joining you.
Ken Kelly [00:02:16] Thanks so much, Mary. My goodness, this has been a whirling dervish. And what better ringmaster do we have than Mary to lead us all as we kind of move through all of these details. I guess the one thing I’d say is, wouldn’t it be nice to do it in person the next time? So my name is Ken Kelly, I’m coming from Newfoundland. As Mayor Mike would say, the land of Mick Murray and Halifax. And I’d like to thank our panellists for joining us. I think we’ve got. An absolutely fantastic cross-section of individuals who are eating, drinking, thinking, living street issues eat from a uniquely different perspective. But before we jump into that, I just love to if I can just do a small bit of editorialization. As I watched these tremendous sessions that we’ve been having over the last day and a half, I sort of go, you know, maybe we could summarise, this is Canada’s four C’s what we’re looking for here, and as we’re pushing forward, the four C’s are Covid. We want to get rid of it. It’s community. We want to ensure that the community focused on our downtowns re-emerges strong. Socially, economically, culturally and with a care for those who have been marginalised not only because of Covid, but because of historic reasons. Climate, the third one. And then the fourth is collaboration. We’re not going to go anywhere without the collaboration of all of us as community. It’s Canada. So with that, let me just introduce this fantastic group that we brought together. I think what we would like to do is March through with these different emerging perspectives will get a street level report from and what’s playing out on our streets from Derek Pace. He’s the executive director of the Brunswick Street Mission here in Halifax, and Derek’s had a great experience, coast to coast, dealing with street issues first hand. Then we’ll move to Craig Cooper. He’s the director of housing stability services for the City of London, and he’s going to talk about the challenges and successes of the city’s 2019 Core Area Action Plan. Move on to Mark Garner the CEO of Downtown Young. He’s going to be unveiling to the nation his organisation, Safety and Inclusion Action Plan for the Toronto Core. And then we’re going to wrap things up with Judge Christine Lowe, the Victorian Integrated Court in B.C. Judge Lowe will talk about this innovative approach to justice, touching on successes, but also some of the ongoing challenges. So maybe I could just turn things over. Derek, what about you and I start with a little fireside chat? Well, sort of give everybody that first hand exposure to what these street issues comprise and how they’ve been moving and changing over these past few years. Can you give us a glimpse of what you’re seeing on the streets right now? And has it changed over these Covid years?
Derek Pace [00:05:38] So first, I’d also like to acknowledge that I too, am in the unseeded ancestral territories of the Mi’kmaq people. Thanks Ken, yeah. So we’re seeing poverty. Obviously, the results of many years of system failures on the streets, lack of affordable housing. This makes it difficult to get people kind of off the streets and out of the shelter system. We’re seeing more people coming into the system who have never been in the system and never would have imagined that they’d be facing homelessness or potentially becoming homeless or being food insecure. So, yeah, the pandemic kind of also caused new issues on the street. People are having difficulty accessing their networks and the people who they would traditionally work with. They see people through closed doors and it’s having its effect a really, really difficult and negative effect on other people.
Ken Kelly [00:06:45] And it’s really not just the what you might consider to be the stereotyped individuals who are being impacted by this. It’s a full array of people, is it not?
Derek Pace [00:06:55] It is indeed. People are being affected by the pandemic and just being affected by the lack of affordable housing. We have people, you know, but we’ve always had people who live pay cheque to pay cheque. But with the cost of living and the pandemic, people are really facing some serious issues that they’ve never had the face with before. And I’ve had friends, and I think probably everybody here has had friends who have been impacted negatively by the pandemic.
Ken Kelly [00:07:24] What would you identify as some of the reasons that people are being propelled to these situations they find themselves in?
Derek Pace [00:07:34] I would say some of the ones that I think have been talked about in other sessions, but the financial aid, financialization of housing, inflation, Covid and just in Canada, I think we’re, well, I don’t think, I know we’re faced with a housing crisis.
Ken Kelly [00:07:53] So you’ve worked on both coasts. Do you see a difference in what you’ve, you know, experienced out in Victoria, here in Halifax? Is there a big difference?
Derek Pace [00:08:07] I would say no. Poverty has the same devastating effect no matter where you are. We have a housing crisis across the country. It’s difficult. I think working on the front line, it’s become more difficult to peddle hope because the cost of rent and the cost of ownership is is almost unattainable. So when people are, they are in a homeless crisis, to tell them that, you know, everything’s going to be ok or you can get yourself out of this. It’s really hard for them to hear, and it’s a hard thing for them to conceptualise.
Ken Kelly [00:08:49] We’ve had some some strong signals, I think, sent to us by the federal government in creating two new streams of mental health and addictions, as well as housing. How do things look from your perspective of the programs that are being introduced by the federal government, the provincial government, municipal governments to address these types of issues?
Derek Pace [00:09:13] That’s a big question.
Ken Kelly [00:09:15] I know it’s kind of a loaded one.
Derek Pace [00:09:17] It is a loaded one. So let me say this. I think that all levels we need leadership from all levels of government to recognise the impact of homelessness and the effect that it’s having on all levels of government. And I think we need leaders to come together and yeah, to just realise that, you know, this is not somebody else’s jurisdiction. This is everybody’s issue and we need to work together to come up with solutions because, you know, basically not basically housing is a human right.
Ken Kelly [00:09:56] So as you look around right now, are there any best practices that you would identify here in Halifax with your Brunswick Street mission, with other colleagues across the country that we could look at as examples and models for us all to move towards?
Derek Pace [00:10:15] So yeah, from the front line, from working with people, individuals who are experiencing poverty and homelessness. I think first and foremost, you have to just kind of constantly being a constant level of service improvement. You know, I hear great things happening across the country and there’s great things happening in Halifax, but I’ll talk about what we’re doing and we didn’t reinvent the wheel. This is all stuff that that’s happening everywhere else. But you know, we come at it. We come at our work from a client centred approach. We definitely have a trauma informed services. We are evolving programs constantly to meet the needs of the community and address what people are asking for and looking for. We, so, I’ll give you an example. We felt and this is not new, this is happening elsewhere. We’ve had a food bank and the model has been, you know, similar to many food banks. Sort of the old model where we give people a hamper of food and we hope that they’re going to take it home and they’re going to enjoy it. And then but now we’ve decided that choice is very important to us. So we’re changing that model to be a choice model so that individuals come through and shop for the option for the food that they know, that their families are going to enjoy. And that’s, so we heard that we’ve been very responsive to the community and these are questions or things that people are asking for. So we’ve decided to do that and we call it, we’re calling it a market. So it’s a very fresh space for people to come into. But yeah, I think it’s important to be responsive to what requests are coming your way.
Ken Kelly [00:12:13] Thanks so much Derek Thank you. Thank you for all you’re doing, and thanks for this, Craig, to you in London.
Craig Cooper [00:12:21] Thanks Ken and good afternoon, everybody. Maybe good morning, depending on where you are. I am just going to see about sharing my screen and hoping my technology works well, hoping that you can see the City of London Core Area Action Plan. Thanks very much for being here today and good to listen to Derek there talk about some of the challenges that your’re experiencing in Halifax in the East, and it’s very similar. I would suggest to what we’re seeing in London, my slide moved here, there we go. You know, the city has seen a real significant increase in our unsheltered population people living in makeshift encampments over the last five years and really some of the challenges that that’s having on our downtown core. And so we really focused on multifactorial multi-service area response with our Quarry Action Plan in 2019, which has since been updated. As you can see, this is sort of the core area of the city of London, a little stream to the north there, that kind of encompasses are our grand theatre and some of the more commercial areas. Then our main downtown core where a lot of the commerce happens and then out to the east past our Western Fairgrounds and our casino there and then including our Old East Village. So our core area in the city is quite large and we are seeing various challenges across all areas of this not. So when we started talking about the core area action plan. We really wanted to find the problem. And so our definition at the time was that, you know, London has made a significant number of investments in our core area. John Labatt centre and now Budweiser Gardens was a significant investment 10 years ago for a sports arena. We’ve made significant investments in our convention centre and other areas of the city to to make it a destination. But we’ve still found that significant social issues persisted and continue to persist to this day that are threatening the long term success of the core. So our approach was one that you see here is more of the an aligned approach, and every gear here relates and impacts the gear it’s attached to and even beyond. And so the key for us was the main focus that we tried to understand and tried to implement was that people struggling with homelessness and health issues need help. That was a fundamental idealism as part of this plan. And from there we knew if we solved and worked with those folks that are homelessness and have health issues that we would be able to have help people feel safe and secure in our downtown core. And if people feel safe and secure in the downtown core, to coming downtown and businesses are going to be successful and they will be able to attract more people so they all do spin together in our approach in this cog really reflects the goals that we tried to and have tried to implement with the core area action plan. So let’s discuss a few actions that really the city has undertaken over the last couple of years and my team in particular in the housing stability services side. We focus on sort of the Housing Stability Week, and that was really the kick off for us in our community to try and understand what was happening in our community, right? We knew we were seeing an increase in unsheltered homelessness. We knew our shelters and the social challenges and the issues around poverty were starting to increase. This is pre-Covid pandemic. So what my team and I decided is, we’re going to take this as a crisis event and we’re going to take the similar approach like we do through our emergency management system. And we created a location for people to come to that. We’re experiencing homelessness or housing instability or had challenges and had them come to the space and facility into this space to be supported. Part of it was to understand sort of how many folks are experiencing homeless in our community because we never really had a good understanding of it at that time. But we also then as we started to plan this had multiple service agencies come on site, provided a number of various intensive supports from social to economic all the way to helping people with pets. We even had a veterinarian clinic run a couple of days to help folks that are experiencing homelessness with pets, make sure that their pets are cared for and their family members are cared for. And so we really wanted to focus on that week to connect to every individual that came to the day, and we were seeing five hundred people a day during that week and get them connected to health and housing services. So we were able to connect about 120 people immediately to housing throughout that week. But really, what we did is created a system and created an understanding of connection within our system and in a sense of collaboration. So the main key driver of some of our responses for our Core Area Action Plan is the coordinated and informed response, and so that is a compassionate approach that the city is taking. It’s multifactorial and works across multiple different systems within the city. So it’s led by my Housing Stability Services team. We fund an outreach program that works on a, kind of a complaint basis, but really it is. We have an understanding of where people are sleeping or unsheltered, and every day that group goes out and starts to work and engage and build relationships with those folks who are experiencing homelessness. As we were responding to those challenges that we see on a daily basis, we get about 200 referrals a month through this program. And compassionately work with individuals to try and end their homelessness, meet them where they’re at and start to work with those individuals around their housing journey. And we do recognise that from time to time, and it seems to be more prevalent these days, but that health and safety of encampments, the size of encampments do require some additional work and by law enforcement. So part of our team is also our bylaw officers, as well as our roads crew in the city. And so they all work collaboratively with our outreach teams, have that care and compassion and approach to try and get somebody into shelter. And then we actively move to clean up the encampment once somebody is identified that their personal belongings are have been cared for and then they sort of don’t want to utilise the space anymore. So we’re able to work with those areas and our team. There’s a lot of cleaning up of the public space that we do, cleaning up needles, cleaning up garbage and sort of the after effects of some of the work that this court informed response team does. So as part of that, according informed response team, very early, we recognise we need someplace for people to go that may not be shelter. That may be a little bit lower barrier for individuals that we recognise. People in the moment are very challenged. And so as part of the core area action plan, we strove to create 40, daytime resting spaces. And so these resting spaces are really just that. They’re an area for somebody to go because we saw a significant reduction in spaces for individuals even pre-pandemic, where they couldn’t go and hang out anymore. They couldn’t have those social interactions anymore. They couldn’t go somewhere to get a shower, couldn’t go somewhere to get a meal. And we’re really starting to encamp and make sure they camp a lot more. And so what these spaces provide is that opportunity for somebody to get in and out of the elements to have a shower or to have a meal to get connected with our systems. We have 10 beds that run during the day and then 30 beds that run overnight. 10 beds are designed specifically for women, 10 beds are designed for general population, and then we have 10 Indigenous specific beds as well that is currently being incorporated into a larger response for our Indigenous community in London. So I’ll talk with a unique program about our Headlease program here at the city, it is a pilot progra currently, and as we’ve started to engage people and talk to them through the Housing Stability Action Plan and through a coordinated form response. And what we’re seeing is people are trying to solve their own problems and homelessness challenges and shelters that many of the marginalised population are not able to sign a lease. They don’t have security income, they don’t have identification, they have poor credit history or the various health conditions or a background that are impacting their ability to sign a lease. So we’ve found and worked with a number of developers in the city to secure twenty five headleased units. The city is on lease for renting those units, and we work with our community partners to then match individuals who are of a fairly high acuity to those units to try and help them stabilize so that they can get to a state where they’re able to secure their income, secure their belongings, secure their identification and then get matched to a permanent housing solution that they have a choice in. We found the Headlease program really allows people to stabilize and not just necessarily take the very next unit available to them. It gives them choice in their housing journey and then it gives them a choice to make a home. And we found that when somebody is really invested in their community, really wanting to live in an area that they can call home and start putting down roots that has the best result in outcomes for individuals on their housing stability journey. So as well, we also recognise that there are individuals in our community that need supportive housing and housing with support. So as part of the core area action plan, there was a pretty significant commitment from our community and our council to support the creation of housing units. So back in 2019, the city partnered with one of the supportive housing providers, non-profit housing providers in our community to create a 72 unit development. With the investment, the city has supported and created 32 supportive housing units and individuals that are experiencing homelessness will be matched to through our coordinated access system. So we saw a real gap in our community around how people can get linked to housing and housing support. And we really see it’s almost like a feeding frenzy when new units and new developments come aboard. People are applying and advised us that for the thirty two units they have, they had 600 applications and they had nowhere to start. No real idea how to start around, how to prioritise our community. When we look at our by name list of people experiencing homelessness in London, as well as our community housing waitlist, there’s over 7500 people in London that have expressed a need for some sort of housing help. So part of the work that we do in our coordinated access that ties directly into matching into these units, is just that, it is taking that coordinated process. It’s understanding and assessing individuals needs and then matching them to housing that they feel is their home and can be successful in. So we’re expecting occupancy at this supportive housing development in all these villages in that core area later in 2022. And we’re actually really excited about the opportunities and the partnerships that we’ve been able to secure for supporting individuals. So as part of all of the work we had to do, we recognise that there was a need to expand some case management approaches. And so our city does subscribe to the Housing First model and emphasises on that needs assessment for each individual meeting them where they’re at, but also recognising that there isn’t this requirement for housing that you have to be sober, that you have to be dealing with your challenges. Our biggest requirement for being housing ready is just that you’re able to sign a lease and you have a source of income and identification. So those once those three things are met. We’re working with individuals to support them in their housing journey to ensure that they can be successful. And so this case management skills some of those gaps where we see our outreach teams working with individuals on the street that need that additional assessment and support. So they’re able to call on this team to go in and work with those individuals to be successful. And so it shows a real commitment to flexibility in our community. It shows us that we’re trying to stabilize and collaborate differently and really work with the individual and putting the individual at the centre of all the work that we do because we recognise individuals are different, their needs are different. And for them to achieve housing stability, what works for one individual is not going to be a cookie cutter approach for the next individual and really recognise that the successes we have, are when we’re able to really work with an individual and make sure that their housing stability journey and their needs are heard and met. So this sort of outlines a bit of our coordinated approach. Everything sort of interacts with our coordinated access system, and that allows us to intake individuals who are identifying as homelessness or housing insecure and allows us to provide an initial assessment for them and then allows us to match to a available housing resources that meet the needs of the individual and a bit of a choice on where they want to to go. So our biggest key is not just giving people keys in a space, it’s giving keys a space where they want to live and support to be successful for the long term. So that’s my information. And I will stop sharing my screen. Maybe there it is over here. Thank you. Yeah, and thank you.
Ken Kelly [00:25:15] Thanks, Craig. Thanks for your innovation at the the London level and thanks for your participation right now. I’d like to turn things over to Mark who’s just working to go and talk to us about what’s happening in the core of Toronto, specifically down on Young Street. Mark.
Mark Garner [00:25:41] Unmute. Here we go. Thanks, and again, glad to be part of the discussion today, and thanks Ken for putting this session together, as well as thanks to CUI for your ongoing support on the downtowns and the challenges we’ve got. I think my presentation is going to be a little more visual in regards to the issues that we’re seeing. You know, obviously downtowns are confronted with significant issues around mental health, addictions and homelessness and the opioid crisis. I really don’t think it is emerging any more. It’s here, very present and we’re battling those challenges. I like to say I remember a day in downtown young when what we dealt with was panhandling or it was buskers or unlicensed to pop up retail or hotdog vendors. Those were the good days based on what we’re dealing with currently. And when we were, you know, really marketing back in the day when we were a marketing organisation, a beautification organization extent and advocacy seemed to be the good old days. But based on the sessions I’ve listened to so far over the last couple of days, I think the challenges and the images I’m about to share are common place through not only significant large downtown corners, but it’s across the country and in small rural communities. And it’s a common theme, and we’ve had to engage in a way that we never had before. We started at downtown young BIA with a safe and inclusive strategy, which started back in 2017. And the foundation of that plan really underscores our belief that it’s collaboration across all community stakeholders, and it’s about shared common concern for those individuals in our community of the most vulnerable. We’ve done a drop in resource guide. We’ve implemented our team, our community engagement team that is doing outreach in our neighbourhood. They’ve handled over five hundred and fifty crisis calls from businesses and social agencies since we implemented it. We’ve developed a drop what I call a storefront de-escalation training because as you know, most of our businesses are now becoming frontline support workers in some capacity. And this has turned into a great partnership with the city of Toronto for the deployment of this training across the city and through the BIA network. We set our organization sits on the leadership table for the city of Toronto around issues in the downtown East Recovery Plan and specifically around looking at solutions and service levels that need to be improved as we look to open up and drive the economics that we need for recovery coming out of COVID. But the reality is still there, and I think again, I mentioned that I’ve seen some of the chat comments that this is common theme across the place, and I’m going to share some of the images and then really dive into the next phase of our strategy, which is our nine point action plan. So on that note, you know, you see in our downtown core is a lot of the infrastructure. Street furniture is damaged based on mental health issues and for various different reasons. It’s not setting a very good experiential level that you need in your downtown core and requires improved and ongoing increased maintenance. Alot of the mental health challenges is there is people that are taking street furniture and putting them into the public realm or putting them in the public right away, which is impacting, again, the experiential but obviously the safety with the overall community in the area. Based on the addictions, I won’t get into detail with this slide, but again, based on the challenges around mental health, addictions and the drug supply, there’s numerous issues that we have never dealt with before. We have increased elevated behaviours based on the complex situations on clients on street, with increased behavioural issues that caused damages within the catchment and that need ongoing support and repair from not only our members. But this is an ongoing trend that we’ve seen in the neighbourhood recently. Any of our typical role as a BIA around the beautification and activations, we’re seeing significant damages to any of the plant material. We spend tens of thousands of dollars to beautify the neighbourhood. But they’re all getting damaged on a day to day basis that we have to go back and replant or any of the activations that we’re doing in public spaces. The community convenes in, are being damaged as well. The mental health challenges are complex, and I think we can all agree that the individual needs and I look to, you know, Craig’s point that he had made the individual needs around some of the clients that are typically or well entrenched on street and refuse service. Have significant issues that can’t be addressed so that we need to look at those individuals and the needs and services that they need provide as opposed to a broad brush approach. A lot of the encampments, not only during Covid, was prior to Covid, but obviously Covid has drawn attention to the housing issue. Supportive housing requirements in our area is second to none to the challenges that we see on street. So again, the encampments, the challenges, parks spaces, all the places that used to be easily convened for the entire community in a safe and inclusive way has been a challenge for us over Covid. So we have to come up with a more proactive plan, specifically what needs to happen in the partners around the table and what we need to do. We need to ensure that the silos we there’s a component of all this that needs education, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, supportive housing, law enforcement are all integral components of a holistic approach. It’s got to be very inclusive. We need police and outreach workers must take more work in tandem to get people the help they need. And as I think has been mentioned, I think through the themes through the CUI summit. The municipality, the federal and provincial level governments have to work in a way they’ve never worked before. They need to stop the deflecting, that this is a provincial issue or it’s a federal issue. We need to all come together as part of a holistic strategy. Harm reduction facilities are inadequate for the services that we’re seeing, and they’re ineffective without the necessary wrap around services to support them. Otherwise they are a little more than just harm deferral or creating a revolving door of issues that we see and repeated use without the effective wrap around services. We’re not only doing an injustice to the individuals that meet that, but we’re not getting people into long-term care they need. Harm reduction facilities, then wind up becoming magnets for illegal activities or negatively impact the experience within the neighbourhood. So in a four pillar strategy, there is harm reduction. We have ticked that box and we do quite well in that area, but we need to make sure we’re doing prevention, treatment and enforcement. This is a very specific issue to the downtown Young neighbourhood and our area is we have an SIS and shelter service in the area, and it’s between obviously a high tourist area and a university, and it’s no place to put a supervised injection site or to have shelter services as a permanent solution. We think that we need to see ongoing success for our neighbourhood and the economics of our neighbourhood. They need to be moved into areas where it would be part of the health sciences cluster or close for additional services. We have learnt very well that we’ve created a lot of social inequity based on the density and the concentration of services, so we need to make sure that these services are, you know, deployed across the city of Toronto across the GTA, that they need to be decentralised, which will enable more stability of service, better housing opportunities for those clients, most in need. Supportive housing, we support housing, but supportive housing is a key function and focus for our organisation because we need to get clients all the services that they need if we’re going to address these issues and to be spread across the GTA. Day to day data, as we say with our team, we need to create an independent agency to compile, track and analyse data about the street involvement of homelessness, drug use and crime. We need to eliminate the confrontation bias and self-interest data collection that is currently in place. We need to base decisions on actions that are neutral and use empirical evidence to make those decisions. Show the data even though it’s bad and will all come together to try and figure out what we need to do. Enforcement of the law has been a key component for us, regardless of an individual’s situation, criminal or provincial offences. They must be prosecuted. It’s creating a significant issue and I’m sure this is a common theme across the country. Social services and law enforcement will work together. We need to be helping the most vulnerable while we’re targeting and prosecuting the traffickers because the most vulnerable are still the most vulnerable in our community. It’s not working in its current form. Resource allocation, I think what we’ve learnt based on Covid in our neighbourhood is that we used to have a lot of foot traffic and probably more activity than any other parts of the city, so we needed to make sure that they’re requiring more resources to maintain the safety, security and cleanliness. A major tipping point was obviously Covid for us, but we need to make sure as part of our recovery strategy that we have a proportionate distribution of resources as part of the downtown, knowing that the core BIAs within the downtown core, manage over seventy four percent of the entire commercial tax base for the city of Toronto. Measured outcomes, all levels of government that are contributing to public funds. There’s a lot of money coming from the federal level and provincial level, and we need to make sure that the money being spent on these things needs to be more strategic, more targeted and more cohesive if we’re going to address the issues that are before us. We need to make sure that they’re accountable, that it’s crucial to ensure that the investments address the root causes and that are street related issues are being held as a priority. Measuring inputs on money, staff time, meetings and consultations, a number of outreach engagements is meaningless without making sure that we’re tracking whether they are making a positive difference within our downtown cause. And last but not least, it really is making sure that we provide a high level of service for those in need and prosecute those that are exploiting them. Engage the community to move more focused and more inclusively, but not focusing just on the needs of one part of the community, but the entire community and exercise duty of care for everybody. So this is the plan we’re deploying in Downtown Young as a key focus, and we continue to advocate on this. And I think our membership in other communities, not only in Ontario, but across the country are now supporting this type of conversation that we’re all here to work together in a cohesive and collaborative way. These things are very complicated, so the interconnectivity on all these complicated issues is required in BIAs and business and all partners and stakeholders need to be at the table. So thanks, Ken.
Ken Kelly [00:37:44] Thank you, Mark. Thanks for being a champion of social justice and in Toronto and obviously by this sharing it to the country. And Jeff McCausland made an interesting comment in the chat that I think, Jeff, you’re going to be all ears with our final presenter who is yes, you Judge Lowe.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:38:09] Okay.
Ken Kelly [00:38:10] Judge Lowe is the Crown prosecutor when the Victoria Integrated Court was being formulated, and she was a tremendous force for good and has now risen to a Judge and does preside as one of the Judges in the Victoria Integrated Court. I think everybody be interested in this, including Mr.name here, who was pointing out that Toronto has had a mental health court for quite some time, 25 years. Judge Lowe.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:38:44] Ok, thank you very much, Ken. Hopefully you can hear me. Lovely to see you. I’m trying to share my screen. I did tell Jamie that I might need some assistance. Can you all see my screen?
Ken Kelly [00:38:55] Not yet.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:38:57] Not yet. Ou Jamie help. Let’s see.
Ken Kelly [00:39:01] There we go.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:39:02] Ok, there we go. Jamie, are you in charge of it now?
Jamie [00:39:05] Yeah.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:39:06] Ok. Oh, lovely. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. OK, well, I mean, I think I might seem I might not be the most popular person in the room as the sort of law enforcement end of things. But I’m here to talk about collaboration, and I think that’s what the Victoria Integrated Court experience has been. I’m mindful of your time Ken and I think I’ve only got five minutes till you’re supposed to wrap up your session. So next screen, Jamie?
Ken Kelly [00:39:31] All, yours.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:39:34] Ok, so I wanna answer the questions, how did we get here? Who do we serve in the Victoria Integrated Court? Next slide, Jamie. Ok, so I just I just want to say a little bit more about this. In 2010, our court responded to a community led initiative to address street crime in Victoria by adopting this integrated approach to mentally disordered and drug addicted chronic offenders. These are the revolving door people I think that Mark spoke of. And at that time, the Victoria Police Department had estimated that over about a 40 month period, three hundred and twenty four homeless people, so a relatively small group, 324 homeless people in Victoria were responsible for, get this twenty three thousand and thirty three police encounters at an estimated cost of nine point two million dollars. That’ll make your head spin. So the mayor’s task force on Homelessness and Mental Illness really zeroed in on the problem with homelessness, mental illness, psychiatric problems. Substance abuse is huge. So assertive community teams were created to assist these people, these outreach teams who work with them. And when I say a judge, Ernie Quantz, had an idea and he brought everybody to the table, and I think most people probably think this is pretty unusual to involve the courts because we tend to be that somebody spoke of a silo. We tend to be that silo. But Judge Quantz said, no, we’re all going to get together at the table. So these are the people that we all worked with. There were others, I’m sure, but include the downtown Victoria Business Association and particularly our good friend, Ken Kelly. Next slide, please. So who do we serve? So these are, these are the people you all have been talking about, these chronic different offenders struggling with the barriers, mental health, addiction, homelessness and the high users of community resources, including police, ambulance hospitals. These people are costing communities a lot of money. So these are the people that we serve. Next slide. And what are our goals? We wanted to increase public safety. That’s what everybody wants. We’re all members of our communities by decreasing the recidivism and dealing with this antisocial behaviour in the community that those those photos that Mark showed are all about that sort of behaviour. We want it to hold offenders accountable and have more effective sentencing and also decrease the inappropriate use of the emergency services, which, as I say, was so costly. Next slide. So how did we work to achieve these goals? Well, we ordered these offenders through the court, we had them all in court, we do one half day per week and these particular offenders come to this court. They’re required to follow the directions of the restorative community team. Normally, that is not done, but we handed over. We delegated these assertive community team members as having the authority to tell these offenders what they will do, that they will report to them that they will take their medication, et cetera. And we have the authority to bring back offenders to court for reviews of their behaviour. We can have them back week after week after week. This is very unusual in the court system. Normally you have to have the jurisdiction to bring people back for some reason. If we hear they’re not behaving in community, it will be reported. We will just add them to our list, they’re required to come back and we will talk to them from the bench and say, what’s going on? And we will be told by the assertive community treatment team exactly what’s going on. They’ll be rated out if they’re misbehaving. And they’ll also get kudos if they’re doing well. And we also decided, you know, we’re going to rely on some community work service orders, to in order for these people understand they need to give back to community. They are members of community as well. Next slide. So I wanted to talk just briefly and I’m really racing through now. But about the Community Work Service Initiatives. And my dear friend Ken Kelley was part of this subcommittee that we created. And there were two initiatives that we sort of focussed on. We’d already had some of these offenders working with the DVBA, a clean up team that had always been in place, but we had two projects in mind. First of all, this mural project. So I’ll turn to the next slide, please. So this mural project, this is an example of, this is a sample of the brochure that we created. We wanted to engage the community and celebrate our community and be part of this project. Next slide. So the mural project involved these clients. So these are the people suffering from mental illness struggling with drug addiction. We are team members. We have members of the judiciary, the DVBA, community members, legal counsel, psychiatric nurse and lead artist, et cetera. Next slide. Everybody contributed, and this is what we did. The DVBA found us some space which we were given, I think, free of charge or very minimal cost. And some our clients were brought there over, a period about two weeks. They had an opportunity to be part of this. The mock up mural is what you see behind the two artists in front. Next slide. And there is one of our team of clients with her mural. Look how happy she looks. I never saw her look so happy as she did right in that moment. Next slide. There’s our psychiatric nurse, Randy, wonderful man, he did a tremendous amount of work with these clients. Next slide. And oh, that’s me mopping the floor, OK? When it was all done. And there’s another one of our big clients happily working away on her her prints. So sometimes you’d have, you know, you’d have lawyers, you would have the clients, you’d have the judges, you’d have whoever showing up just to do their part of the mural. Next slide. And there is just a number of people you can’t tell who’s who, but I know that the artist is there. Some of her big clients are there very happy, smiling with their with their projects. Next slide. And this was an example of the final. The final thing this, obviously, is from the newspaper and its community’s vision of justice. People were asked to paint something on their part of the mural as to what freedom meant to them, and this is how it eventually looked when it was put together. Next slide. And it is displayed in community, and I will tell you, you know, in terms of that mural project that thing is is huge. It is, I think it’s 16 feet by 30 feet and sorry we’re missing another slide. But anyway, then we had a public unveiling. I think maybe the slides might be mixed up. With the DVBA inviting people to come and the integrated people come, and we had a public unveiling. And our next our next project was the Serenity Garden project. So this was again, this was Judge Quantz and his wife were great gardeners and they were part of setting this up. Next slide, please. And so there was some land at a tertiary care facility, so volunteers went out and sort of tilled the land. Next slide, you can see where it started from. And this is what it grew into. So again, our big clients were sent out there to do community service, and the mural project was part of their community work service as well. These people grew great vegetables. Next slide. And there again, you can see them working in the garden. You can’t tell who’s who, but there’s lawyers. I see a probation officer. I see a client and someone from acting, in those photos. Next slide. And yes, and then we won an award, and we were very pleased. Thanks again, Ken Kelley. The Integrated Court won, the business improvement areas of B.C. award best in the West, Award in the category of safety and social issues. So this was my little prosecutorial team there in that photo. And in the other photo again, there’s you know judges and lawyers and everyone associated with the court. Ken, I think, I know you were there because you brought the cake, but you were taking the photo. And we also have a member of the DVBS green team. They’re police, everybody coming together to make this happen. Next slide. I want to talk about new roads therapeutic recovery centre. Just briefly and again entitled as A Community in Action. This background photo is from the new Roads Recovery Centre. Next slide. And you can see I’ve listed sort of the collaborators on that again, provincial government, municipal government, Our Place Society really was the catalyst for this. Private donors and businesses and hero work, volunteerism, we can’t say enough about them. Next slide. This place was a former youth detention centre, so over on the left side of your screen, that’s when it’s already started to be under way. This was a very uninviting space. It was sort of abandoned years ago. It was kept as a bit of a homeless shelter during some really rough times, but it was left empty for years and it really was very, very institutional. Hero work were a group of volunteers from the community who donated time, materials, et cetera and their expertise. Clearly, they were experts involved, and they totally revamped this to make it a therapeutic recovery centre. There were 500 volunteers who made this happen. These were all just community members. Yeah.
Ken Kelly [00:49:16] Absolutely stellar. What a beautiful portrait you’ve portrayed of how the Integrated Court has touched so many lives and done so, so creatively. Unfortunately.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:49:31] We’re out of time.
Ken Kelly [00:49:34] This signal.
Judge Christine Lowe [00:49:35] I just wanted to mention that because of course we do. We send people to that facility. It’s not a jail, but we can order them there on probation or conditional sentence orders and give them a chance to turn their lives around. So I wanted to have that. And it was great community effort, collaboration.
Ken Kelly [00:49:55] You know what. Thank you. Thanks Judge Lowe, thanks Mark, thanks Craig, thanks Derek, for the hearts that you’ve put into this work. It’s all about collaboration, as we’ve heard for the last day and a half. So we’ll just leave with the title of this, everyone’s responsibility. We all have a role to play.
Mary Rowe [00:50:14] Thank you. Thanks, Ken, and thanks very much. I was very pleased to be able to hear and benefit from the experience and Judge I am familiar with the Centre for Court Innovation in New York and sat on a bench. Had the experience that you’re describing of what it’s like when all the services are under one roof. And I think this notion of community hubs, which is London, is also piloting through to the initiative that you’ve been talking about. And how do we actually get these services provided and exactly what Mark is calling for. We need to highlight this. This is my puppy behind me adding a little added musicality here. The idea that we bundle services in ways to be able to support people. And there’ve been tons of comments in the chat here. I just want to just highlight for everybody. We publish the chat. So if there are resources in there and you think, Oh darn, why didn’t I make sure that I looked at that web reference, you’ll see them again because they’ll get published again. So Derek and Craig and Mark always and nice to meet you, Judge and Ken. Thank you so much for we appreciate IDAs partnership on this, and it’s going to take, as you say, that’s what’s going to take everybody on our.
Ken Kelly [00:51:15] Across the country.
Mary Rowe [00:51:16] That’s right. All hands on deck. So thanks, folks, for joining us for this eight minute break, folks. For you, marathoners. We’re coming back in eight minutes to talk about culture and the extraordinary role that culture plays in actually keeping downtowns vibrant. But now how is that sector going to recover. So eight minutes from now, I’m going to see you back here for a really fabulous session on culture. Thanks, everybody.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
Canadian Urban Institute:COMING UP: Everyone’s responsibility: Canada’s Challenge with Street Issues (2:30 – 3:15pm ET) with Judge Christine Lowe, Victoria Integrated Court; Mark Garner, CEO, Downtown Yonge BIA; Craig Cooper, Director of Housing Stability Services, City of London; Derek Pace, Brunswick Street Mission, Halifax; and moderated by Ken Kelly, Project Manager, IDA Canada.
This Summit would have not been possible without the incredible support of our partners and sponsors. Please visit www.canurb.org/citysummit for the full list of sponsors.
02:54:04 Suzanne Kavanagh: This needs to be an annual check in as we continue this dialogue.
02:54:54 Erwin Dreessen: How many people are tuning in today? How many yesterday? (I heard 2 numbers: 400, or 1200!)
02:54:59 Christopher Clacio: Municipal and regional government will be the future for Canadian politics
02:55:06 Canadian Urban Institute: Ken Kelly is Project Manager for IDA Canada. He is an urban planner who has worked for over forty years throughout Canada to revitalize downtowns and inner cities. He has lived and worked in five of the country’s six regions in the public and private sectors and at two universities. He is the former manager of Downtown Moncton, N.B. and of Downtown Victoria, B.C. and an honourary citizen of Winnipeg, MB.
02:55:17 Stephanie Beausoleil: 🙂
02:55:46 Canadian Urban Institute: A friendly zoom reminder, you can see and hear us but we can’t see or hear you
Our summit is being offered in both French and English. Please click on the globe at the bottom of your screen and select your preferred language.
We are recording today’s session and will share it online at www.canurb.org/citysummit
We hope this summit is as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share comments, references, links and questions in the chat.
02:55:46 paul mackinnon: it would be easier to list the cities in Canada where Ken has NOT worked 🙂
02:57:33 Canadian Urban Institute: Derek Pace is a passionate defender of social justice issues and has spent the past couple of decades working in social services agencies ranging from homeless shelters in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver to food security agencies on both coasts of Canada. He has a love for working the front line and always has a smile when talking to service recipients. He is happiest when he is rolling up his sleeves and working alongside staff and getting the work done. Derek likes challenges and new projects. He joined the Brunswick Street Mission team as Executive Director in April 2021.
02:57:47 Canadian Urban Institute: Craig Cooper is the Director of Housing Stability Services at the City of London. Before coming to the City in April 2019, Craig worked as a program supervisor at Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. In this role, Craig oversaw the Developmental Services Sector for Grey and Bruce counties. Craig has also worked at the Ministry of Municipal of Housing as a Senior Housing Advisor and oversaw implementation of the various Provincial housing and homelessness programs. Craig has an HBA from Western University and spends his spare time with his Wife and two kids. Craig has been a “Big Brother” for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of London and Area for the past 13 years.
02:57:54 Sandra Severs: Greetings, Derek, from Victoria!
02:58:33 Canadian Urban Institute: Mark Garner has been a successful business and community leader for more than 30 years. As Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer for the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area, Mark is an active champion for building a thriving, vibrant city centre. An action-oriented advocate for change, he has spearheaded numerous campaigns and projects to bring about improvements – including developing an incisive 9-point Safety & Inclusion Action Plan to address social issues, executing programs to clean up laneways, developing and implementing a comprehensive Music Strategy, and working directly with municipal leaders on urban planning and revitalization. Mark’s business acumen and social conscience were forged during his years as a senior executive at major Canadian companies, including Bank of Montreal, AT&T and NCR Canada.
02:58:38 Cherie Klassen: And here’s the Ken we mentioned earlier!
02:58:45 Canadian Urban Institute: Over the past decade he has increasingly concentrated on the revitalization and development of urban downtowns, playing an integral role as a catalyst for targeted economic growth, vibrant neighbourhoods, social innovation and start-up incubators.
02:58:59 Canadian Urban Institute: Judge Christine Lowe was a lawyer with the British Columbia Prosecution Service for over 25 years before being appointed to the Provincial Court of British Columbia in August 2015. As a prosecutor, she was part of the public service and community based group that founded the Victoria Integrated Court in 2011. This court services offenders who struggle with a combination of homelessness, addiction and mental illness. The court works in a collaborative and supportive manner with these offenders and their community supports. Judge Lowe now has the pleasure of sitting as a presiding judge in the Integrated Court.
02:59:08 Terry Guiel: Bang on Derek!!!
03:04:35 paul mackinnon: I’d be interested in examples of cities where there is good collaboration between levels of gov’t, business, service agencies, etc.
03:09:17 Terry Guiel: This is helpful Craig.
03:11:04 paul mackinnon: In London, is the municipality technically responsible for housing and/or social services? Or is the city doing this work regardless of jurisdiction?
03:12:08 Ronny Yaron: Toronto has had a mental health court for over 25 years that has case workers connected and has helped divert hundreds from jail !
03:12:42 Rino Bortolin: One huge success we’ve had here in Windsor is bringing all area partners to the table but also include biz/BIA and residents. Biz and residents often felt left out so it lead to nimby approaches to hard issues. Once they became part of the solution and table they became more collaboratively engaged. It also is informal with no minutes so ppl can speak freely and it has lead to a lot of great collaboration between street outreach, city, police, mental health, biz and residents. Here is link to our website that has some good insights…..https://www.windsorwellbeing.com/
03:13:20 Zelda Brown: On the horizon: London Poverty Research Centre; https://alliance2030.ca/members/london-poverty-research-centre/
03:14:56 Rachel Braithwaite: Indwell is amazing!
03:18:56 Alysson Storey: Thank you Craig! Great presentation, London being our neighbour I found your solutions of even more interest.
03:19:19 Alysson Storey: And @Rino – I’m looking at your website now, very interesting! Something we might want to consider for Chatham.
03:21:34 Terry Guiel: Speaking the truths Mark. Thank you.
03:22:44 Terry Guiel: These are the immediate and prime issues facing downtowns. Nothing comes ahead of these issues Mark is raising.
03:24:11 Terry Guiel: These pictures are being seen across the province in every downtown that has social programs.
03:25:08 Terry Guiel: BANG ON Mark!!!
03:25:15 Geoff McCausland: We have increased the coordination of our response in Greater Sudbury and it has made a HUGE difference.
03:25:32 Ken Kelly: And across the country, Terry!
03:25:52 Terry Guiel: Yes, of course
03:25:56 Kay Matthews: In rural and urban communities.
03:25:58 Stephanie Beausoleil: Mark and his team at DYBIA are MAJOR advocates- for our most vulnerable. Thanks for the updates and your commitment Mark
03:27:22 Cherie Klassen: Our BIA Council in Edmonton has also been advocating for many of the things you are also sharing. The business community plays a big role in being advocates for homeless and social issues.
03:27:25 Stephanie Beausoleil: 100%
03:27:39 Cherie Klassen: Yes!
03:28:02 Trina MacDonald: 100% agree!
03:28:27 Geoff McCausland: What’s the point of enforcing the law if the courts won’t do anything and act as a revolving door? Also I think we need to decriminalize all drugs and treat it as a health rather than a criminal justice issue.
03:29:17 Stephanie Beausoleil: Accountability!
03:29:39 Terry Guiel: Municipal coffers need healthy downtowns (Commercial tax collection). Dead on Mark.
03:30:02 Sue Uteck: Great presentation Mark!!
03:30:05 Stephanie Beausoleil: If what were doing isn’t working we need to own it and make changes to save lives and our cities
03:30:08 Terry Guiel: Perfect presentation Mark…..PERFECT!!
03:30:14 Stephanie Beausoleil: Duty of care 100%
03:30:31 Kay Matthews: Thank you Mark, you have continued to be a wonderful leader and advocate in Ontario.
03:30:31 Angela Macdonald: Great presentation Mark
03:30:34 Stephanie McCracken: Thanks Mark for speaking to these very urgent issues.
03:30:55 paul mackinnon: Curious what people feel is the best role for the BIA.
03:30:56 Walter Jamieson: Great ideas and presentation mark
03:30:56 Peter Vaisbord: Great 9 points Mark
03:31:04 Stephanie Beausoleil: Absolutely Mark! Thank you.
03:31:44 MariaLuisa Marti: Thank you Mark, as a person that deals with the decay of public spaces in Ottawa
03:31:46 Carol Jolly: Thank you, Mark. Very informative and hopeful presentation.
03:31:52 Terry Guiel: Sadly 50% of my job (BIA executive) is dealing with mental health, poverty and addiction issues.
03:32:03 Cherie Klassen: @paul, we’ve been clear that our role is advocacy. We can implement some programs, but since we are not experts in homelessness, we need to stay in our lane.
03:34:11 Terry Guiel: Courts and Crown Attorney’s in particular are a big part of the problem
03:36:31 Geoff McCausland: This sounds like a wonderful example of restorative justice. We so often seem to have a blend of a punitive justice system and restorative that doesn’t serve anyone well.
03:40:03 Stephanie McCracken: This looks like a wonderful program
03:42:57 Stephanie Beausoleil: Thank you, all of you
03:43:03 Cherie Klassen: Community programs are great way to make an impact.
03:43:10 Geoff McCausland: Can we have an integrated court in Ontario? Anyone know of examples of that?
03:43:15 Kerry LeBlanc: we are all in this together.
03:43:41 Peter Vaisbord: Hi Ken – Peter
03:44:22 paul mackinnon: seeya in 8. Popcorn break!
03:45:00 Canadian Urban Institute: Thank you Ken, Craig, Derek, Mark, and Judge Lowe. Thank you IDA for your leadership on this session.
We are going to take a quick 15 minute break and return at 3:30pm ET for our next session “Downtown dynamism: Rebuilding hospitality and culture ” with
Beth Potter, CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Canada
Michael Rubinoff, Theatre Producer and Founding Producer, Come from Away
Erin Benjamin, President, Canadian Live Music Association
Tarun Nayar, Executive Director, 5X Festival
03:46:07 Puneeta McBryan: For everyone who’s keenly interested in this upcoming Culture session – I have to put in a plug for the international Music Cities Convention that we’re hosting (virtually) here in Alberta next month. It’s the first-ever Music Cities Convention being held in Canada!
I’ll be MC’ing from Edmonton on day 2. Hope to see some of you there.
03:53:13 Cherie Klassen: Thanks Puneeta! I love the photo on the home page. What a great BIA!