Let’s forget the old year and concentrate on the New Year. That’s the cry every Jan 1st from the masses. Well some of us can’t forget the Old Year because the New Year promises more of the same.
So the question for the few people who follow this Report is – “Why was the last post back in June 2023 – SIX months ago? The answers is simple – I did not want to be repetitive in my opinions.
The issues of 2024 are mainly the same as 2023 and I wonder just how many posts I will publish this year as a result of nothing new. Anyway enough of the whiny stuff and let’s go forward. Here are a couple of issues that I felt strongly about and participated in by speaking out and writing about:
The first mention goes to the topic of Governance and Public Engagement in the Town of Cobourg. The exercise to change the governing procedure for the Council of Cobourg and its Citizens was an outstanding win for the Director of Legislative Services – Mr Larmer. He spearheaded the move from the Mayor and CAO to eliminate the public from Council’s governance and to neuter public involvement in the governing process. Eliminating Advisory Committees from the governing structure and replacing them with Standing Committees and “Task Forces” leaves Cobourg, as a municipality, the leader in the lowest number of committees that a municipality has – in Ontario. And all of this was achieved with the biggest failure in Public Engagement the Town has seen. For example after surveys, public houses, and delegations to Council, over a period of eight months, Mr Larmer managed to see his plan adopted with hardly any edits or changes to the original manifesto.
A great achievement for him but a huge demonstration of a raised finger to the people who participated in the process. They believed if they were asked for an opinion that they might have been heard – what a mistaken belief!
Back to the future. The big issue for 2024 is the same as 2023 – the unhoused on the Brookside Lawns.
Opinion is very one-sided in this Town about this issue and the people who inhabit the tents at that place. On one hand you have a large group of people who don’t care about them, in all probability they would round them up and dump them on an Island in the Arctic if they could. The tenters are seen as ‘wasters living on my money’, ‘bums who don’t live by the rules’, ‘people who refuse to work’ and generally lowlifes who deserve nothing and should be treated like shit! On the other there a few brave souls, who comment with their real names, willing to talk about reality and the displaced.
If you really want to see these opinions go to the “Cobourg News” – John Draper’s blog about local affairs. The opinions range from suggestions to incarcerating the people who are living there to the two or three brave people who are pleading for compassion and suggest that displacing them would be an act of cruelty in the middle of winter. But on the whole most posts are well written with views that I vehemently disagree with and JD does a magnificent job of moderation. Just a suggestion John – put a link on the ‘dark web’ with all the comments that never made the blog! However if one wants to see the really offensive ones go the Social Media – Facebook, people really let rip there.
My opinion is very much in the minority and rarely gets revealed as convos tend to be not convos but rants from people who will not engage in reasonable debate. The ‘venter and ravers’ tend to be just that – very angry people who want to deliver ‘hosepipe’ verbosity to anyone and everyone in sight.
But here is my opinion:
In the absence of political action by the Governments who have jurisdiction – come on down the County and the Province it is unfair to dump the inaction on the Cobourg Council.
The County has jurisdiction for the provision of Social Services and Housing and the Province has funding as does the Federal Government. The County has programmes to get people off the streets with mental health and addiction services offered to the street people. Transition House is the local shelter but it has rules seen as restrictive – no couples and no pets and no disruptions. In other words the demographics of the tenters do not fit the Shelter rules, so they will not go.
In a perfect world the next stage of movement off the streets from the Shelter would be low-income housing, but that is not available in the current setting. The County says it has over 400 units coming in the next ten years but that is obviously not enough. The Province provides money, (read what they do here) but that is not enough and the Feds also provide money but it is going to build homes that are totally unsuitable to enable people to get off the street. Read the Feds response here – a lot of guff.
So I am reduced to repeating to all of the people who want to drain the swamp – what do you do with the displaced people? When the first cleanup operation, that displaced a number of people from a house on Division St. I asked the Mayor if they had a plan to help the evicted. His answer was blunt – “No we wanted to clean up the place, the people are a County problem” – I paraphrase. So we are now stuck with the consequences – a angry bunch of Citizens, and two levels of ineffective Governments that are essential moribund and bureaucratic as well as a Town Council with its head down to fend off the incoming.
So it appears to me that in the absence of real help and assistance by the authorities for the tenters, whatever their reasons are for being there, they have to stay. The alternative is to send in the bulldozers, clean out the area, just like the IDF is doing to Gaza, and disperse the occupants. But where will they go if the Shelter system is either not wanted or full up?
They will go back to where they were before Brookside – the woods in the dogpark the private property on the South side of Kerr St. the woods at the top of Cottesmore and many more places on Town. Rinse and Repeat, Deja Vue all over again or whatever cliches you want to describe the next set of problems.
One thing is apparent what is needed to alleviate the problem is a programme to build ‘barrier-free’ supportive housing units – so let’s get on with it!
- As I write this article I keep browsing the internet for supportive references. In the main one finds Thinktanks and publicly funded academic institutions that produce research and suggestions that will keep them in business. Very few actual examples of models that work. Using the phrase “Housing First” which has become the encompassing title of trying to eradicate homelessness, I had to resort to Wikipedia as the summary of the problems and solutions. Read it here.
- Read the report from New York City – a recognised leader in “Housing First” this report gives models of other jurisdictions that adopted the program
- Manhattan Institutes research on the Topic