The discussion about the homeless problem in Cobourg has been going on for about forty years. Since a long-departed woman called Deedee Bedard camped her tent in front of Victoria Hall during the 1985 Municipal election. A motion was accepted and passed to establish a “Municipal Housing Authority” by the incoming Council but the responsibility was handed to the coordinator of Planning. He had absolutely no interest in the project, it languished and then in the term after he introduced a motion to remove the project from the books. An exercise in irony!
Fast-forward to today and the issue has been reduced to “what can we do about the ‘druggies’? Getting them off the streets appears to be the aim of two types of people. One is the ‘hang-em high’ group who either wants to see them die on the streets without any help – “after all being a druggie is a lifestyle choice, isn’t it?”. This group really has no answer to the problem except to agree that if the ‘druggies’ refuse to abide by the rules of Society and refuse to be decent folks like them then just ignore them. A recent comment to the News page: “As a society it is criminal to support people who are not even attempting to be civil. Social decency should be a requirement, a non negotiable standard needs to be maintained. I feel that those who are hard on their luck deserve more than just sleeping cabins, but those who cannot live in a way that respects or even considers the freedom of others do not need nor deserve the prime locations that our town is adamant on freeing up.”
The other group appear to be sympathetic but are frustrated by the way the local Governments have either ignored/deferred/ the issue. For four years the last Council, who all ran on the issue of conquering the homeless problem did nothing until the last year of their term – three wasted years. Then they pushed the issue back to the County, who had been working on the mandate. “In April 2019, County Council passed a resolution that Northumberland County would lead this effort on behalf of local municipalities. In June 2021, County Council endorsed the CSWBP developed for Northumberland, and the County submitted the plan to the province in July 2021.” People are quite rightly asking where are the results? The County and the Cobourg Police Service have received more than $500K for these initiatives – where are the published results?
However most people who comment on the post on CobourgNews do agree that something should be done. Most agree that ‘wraparound’ services should exist and that if ‘sleeping cabins’ are to be supported then those cabins should not be located in a neighbourhood. Begs the question – where do you put them? If you listen to the neighbours who don’t want them in the parking lot of the Memorial Arena on Furnace St. you have to find another place. It is not easy as Port Hope found out when a shelter was shut down because of its location offending ‘zoning rules’.
When I was an active Politician I quickly discovered that ‘common sense’ is not part of the lexicon of politics. For example one of the excellent suggestions to the housing of the homeless is to use the soon-to-be demolished ‘GoldenPlough’ facilities. Why demolish when it can be repurposed? Common sense right? – Wrong the County ‘crats have sold the Councillors on the idea that it would cost to much to bring the building to code. Does that mean we are housing our Seniors in a bad and illegal place? Of course not that response, repeated by Councillors, needs to be justified in the face of the homeless emergency.
So, the BurdReport and others, say to the County – “You own this crisis, do something about it, open the GPL to the homeless or until the new one opens put the sleeping cabins in the parking lot of the GPL.”
Get on with it!