Mayor speaks for her council on the issue of desperately poor homeless people begging on the streets of the city.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

February 1st, 20129

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette published a short piece on the problems homeless people in Burlington have coping with the bitterly cold weather.

We asked each member of Council and the Mayor for their thoughts on what could be done to help these people.

The Mayor and her team “consulted and, in addition to her own thoughts, many Councillors were also eager to jump in and speak about the ways our community comes together to support homeless individuals” said the Chief of Communications & Strategic Advisor.

She sent us the following:

“As you know, Burlington is part of Halton Region, which has several resources and processes for supporting the homeless during extreme cold weather and all year long.

“As you referenced in your earlier article, Halton Region funds the Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Shelter in Oakville. Outreach staff provide counselling and connect individuals in the shelter to community resources that can help them regain stable and affordable housing.

“Single individuals with no children can dial 311 and be connected with staff who will assess their situation and help them find the best available temporary option which may include staying at the Lighthouse Emergency Shelter, with family, friends or other options. Even though the shelter is not in Burlington, staff there can work with individuals to try and arrange transportation assistance to the shelter itself. In a cold alert, additional beds are made available at the Lighthouse to ensure those most at-risk are provided an emergency option.

Fire damage to the top floor of the Riviera Motel was extensive and arson was thought to perhaps be the cause of the blaze to the abandoned motel. No report yet from the Office of the Fire Marshall.

The Riviera Motel was once rented by the Region as a stop gap location for people who needed housing. It was torn down to make way for the Bridgewater condo and a Marriott Hotel.

“Families with children are immediately triaged into 1 of 8 emergency apartments located throughout the Region. Hotels are used as surge capacity, including in the City of Burlington.

“The Region is aware of individuals from time to time who do not wish to access emergency shelter services, and seeks to provide them with local supports around mental health outreach, housing related case management services, as well as emergency food. Any community group concerned about a particular individual in their community is encouraged to call the Region to access supports and services.

“Halton region also works with police and the COAST (Crisis Outreach and Support Team) to reach out to people who may be on the streets and get them help. In speaking today with Alex Sarchuk, Commissioner of Social and Community Services for Halton, we confirmed that when the Halton Regional Police see homeless individuals they refer them to the Region as well as the Canadian Mental Health Association who provide rapid response teams who work to respond quickly to instances of elevated risk. Through the Halton Housing First program, we also have the ability to provide permanent housing with wrap-around support services for high needs homeless individuals and families – these are located throughout Halton Region, including in the City of Burlington.

Salvation-Army

Seen as a front line responder the Salvation Army doesn’t have any space for the homeless in Burlington.

“We further want to mention the many other valuable service groups in our City that help the homeless with providing needed food and warm clothing. They are spread out through the city and include the Burlington Food Bank, Compassion Society, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Food for Life, and Halton Women’s Place.

“Resources are available so that there is no reason for anyone to spend a night on Burlington’s streets. The City of Burlington staff and leadership are always open to feedback from the community and continued evaluation of the programs that exist along with their use and effectiveness.

More information can be found on the website: http://www.halton.ca/living_in_halton/housing/need_emergency_shelter/

We had hoped we would get some individual comment from the members – what we got was a group think out of the Mayor’s office.  We wonder what Shawna Stolte of ward 4 would have to say and measure that against what ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman would add to our understanding of these people.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken - now she is on the other side of the podium, sitting as a Council member. Should make for greay political theatre when the Medicca One zoning matter comes before committee.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken – now she is on the other side of the podium, sitting as the Mayor.

The Gazette has watched Marianne Meed Ward grow from a consistent and persistent city hall delegation into a candidate for office in a ward she could win in. In her first Burlington election she ran in ward 1 against Rick Craven – something he never forgave her for and got creamed.

Several days after her first win as the Councillor for Ward 2 she got a call from a resident complaining that there was a bag of garbage being blown down the street. Meed Ward did something that few politicians wouldn’t even think of doing. She got into the family van and picked up the garbage herself.

Her first few months in office were difficult – for city hall staff. Meed Ward blew through her postage budget in short order and ran out of money used to pay for the coffee and donuts she provided at her community meetings.

At one of those meetings, which were more like homework classes for the residents who just loved the time and attention they were getting, Meed Ward blurted out “I just love this job” –and indeed she did.

One would hope that in her own way Meed Ward will make phone calls asking around about how many people the police had to help out. Burlington can be surprisingly negligent when it comes to understanding and doing something about the really really poor people.

Marilyn Ansley got back to us after we published the first article saying she too was in touch with the Region – the most she was able to was ‘they should call 311’.

Related news story:

No begging on the streets of Burlington.

 

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7 comments to Mayor speaks for her council on the issue of desperately poor homeless people begging on the streets of the city.

  • Marilyn Ansley

    In reply to Jan Mowbray…I reached out to The Gazette, Access Halton and the Salvation Army in Burlington. The Gazette published my concern which was my goal to raise awareness and find support, comfort and warmth for our fellow human being in Burlington.

    Both Access Halton and Dean Locke, Major of Burlington’s Salvation Army replied within hours. Among other options, their advice was to call 311 for immediate help.

    Of course, these individuals may not have a cellphone or know who to call!

    Now that you have this information and see a homeless person that may need your help, offer to call 311 from YOUR cellphone.

    Marilyn Ansley

  • Phillip Wooster

    I hate to be cynical but I don’t see these “street hustlers” as being poor, homeless people. They seem to be relatively healthy and adequately clothed; they also aren’t interested in any donations other than money. In Toronto and London (UK), I’ve encountered many homeless people–almost always poorly clothed and destitute with their few worldly possessions with them.

  • Maggie

    We definitely need to do better for homelessness. It does exist in Burlington and to pretend it doesn’t is naïve. Having to go to Oakville for shelter and services is not the answerer. Getting there without money is impossible and as Jan Mowbray pointed out without access to a phone calling for services is also not an option. Other towns have the Out of the Cold program. Perhaps it is time Burlington starts a similar program, which could also help with resources. There is so much more we could be doing.

    On the service Burlington does not look like a town where there is poverty. People need to be made aware that the poverty and homelessness do exist even in a town that is as affluent as Burlington.

  • doug

    How many real homeless people do you see with only a sign in their hand, these are the ones who were dropped off by the van load from Toronto/Hamilton to stand on every street corner in our City, especially at Christmas. The real homeless in our City have all their possessions on a bicycle or shopping cart close to them and you see them around everyday, they are not just weekend curb sitters.
    Unfortunately the line between it’s a scam and real homeless is blurred.

  • Penny

    I volunteer at a food bank in Burlington and see first hand what some people are having to deal with. They come in with no winter boots or gloves and for some no warm coats. There is one gentleman who is living in his truck parked on the property.

    I agree with Jan Mowbray making a phone call to 311 is not the answer. Perhaps some of the churches need to open up their auditoriums and provide shelter for the homeless?

    Help is not necessarily going to come from any level of government.

  • Jim Young

    We have to stop treating homelessness as a crime.
    We have to stop reacting to it like a family embarrassment.
    Much of it is caused by mental health issues which we are finally addressing intelligently.
    We need the MMW approach on this. DO SOMETHING.
    Every homeless person is somebody’s Son, Daughter, Mother, Father.
    Be thankful they’re not yours.

  • Jan Mowbray

    So, Ms Ansley, how would they know to phone 311 and how would they phone – pull out their cell phones? Find a pay phone and drop a quarter? Are there even any pay phones around anymore?

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