Over the last few years our city has found itself suffering from the effects of a growing, complex and national opioid epidemic. This crisis, as well as the increasing numbers of homeless people living at or around the Bridges shelter and encamped in our cities green spaces, is overwhelming our social services, health care professionals, police, and first responders.
This has led people to feel unsafe in parts of their community – and this is simply unacceptable.
As Mayor, Kathryn would bring council and city staff together with all relevant sectors to find solutions to this problem. We need to balance the need to provide important mental health and addiction services with the needs of our business community and public safety.
With her experience as a nurse and her work with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council as a past member, Kathryn is the only candidate ready to take action to address these issues, tackle this situation head on, and focus on public safety.
Moving the Bridges, clean up our trails
The Bridges provides an important service in our community. Their current location, while a well-intentioned idea when it was first built, has been increasingly problematic for businesses and area residents, and is inadequate for the needs of the shelter. The Cambridge Shelter Corporation is considering moving the facility to a site that can better meet the needs of the vulnerable homeless population. The new site should be located away from the downtown cores and residential areas, and have the right addiction, mental health, and employment services nearby to help those individuals get back on their feet and back in the community. The City should provide help as needed.
Kathryn believes that decisions being made at the Bridges need to be done with community input and collaboratively with the Region of Waterloo. The Mayor or Council designate should sit on the Board of the Cambridge Shelter Corporation and represent the people of Cambridge when making decisions.
Our trails and greenspaces are for everyone to enjoy safely, and should not be used as an overflow for the shelter. The tent cities that have formed in some of our greenspaces are dangerous and unfair for those living in them, and unsafe for our community. Working with social services and police, we need to help these people get the assistance they need so we can remove these tent cities from our community, and prevent the need for new ones. With a wide network of contacts across Ontario, Kathryn knows that other municipalities have had success in dealing with these issues. We can learn from their experiences.
Focus on prevention and treatment options
Providing supports for mental health and addictions is important, but it is not enough. Our focus must include drug-use prevention. Working with public health, schools, the region, and community groups we can work to implement prevention programs for our youth, such as the Iceland Model that the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has been promoting.
Individuals who are suffering from mental health and addictions issues face complex challenges, and often require wrap around supports including employment and housing, to help them deal with their illness. These services should be delivered in a way to ensure long-term success and the City should better support our existing service providers (eg, tax relief for non-profit counselling agencies).
More effective use of our Municipal Resources
Our police officers are the front line in dealing with many of the mental health and addictions related issues in our community. We need to find ways to decrease police calls for these issues, so that police are available for other public safety needs. As Mayor, Kathryn would work with our frontline staff to explore ways to provide mental health support in a more timely and direct way, while reducing the involvement of our police officers.