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  • Writer's pictureJMac

Candidate Meeting Summaries - Paths Forward part 1





As part of being a candidate, I had a LOT of meetings. I was able to blog about some of them, but in the course of hitting every door in Ward 11 I ran out of time to write separate blog posts about all of them .


These recaps will come in two parts - Part 2 will include home building and employment, as I took a LOT of notes and have some E-Day tasks to complete first. I'm going to take the time here to touch on some highlights.


Violence Against Women (3 meetings):


- We need to challenge and disrupt our flawed system that creates the inequalities that lead to violence against women and girls

- Having a pillar in our Strat plan is a good start, but there's more work to be done

- The city has brought managers and outside workers to the table for training, and Safe Cities Subcommittees and action items are in progress

- We are the third city in Canada pursuing an alternative reporting process for sexual violence without police involvement

- Women and girls won't truly be safe until they permeate all levels of our conscious and planning and we change hearts and minds

- Anova's shelter on Wellington Road needs to be replaced. It has 67 beds and won't truly even touch demand until they get to at least 100 fully staffed beds

- 6 women per day have to be "turned away" because there's no space

- Our shelters shouldn't have to fundraise for food, but that's their current reality due to a lack of funding and a skyrocketing demand

- Our next council NEEDS to know the reality on the ground and make it a priority

- London Police is coming to the table and playing a role in their human trafficking department of being available and solution-oriented alongside community supports and their leadership


City Hall Workers:


-CUPE 101 covers City Hall, Housing, MLHU, LHINs, Middlesex County

- 1,400 members

- Non management

- Bargaining begins this month or next on a new contract

- They have a 2% increase this year under old contract, highest in a long time, during 7-9% inflation

- Under Fontana they had a 0% increase and got a $600 signing bonus

- Retention and attraction are huge challenges. Planners and inspectors for building are union jobs and are easily poached for better pay elsewhere, because to pay them more requires pay raises to all other union members too

- Working safely is another concern, especially downtown, and especially with younger employees like the Core Ambassador program

- One consideration to keep in mind is that as By-Law Officers are asked to do more to address the skyrocketing demand for mental health services, addiction services, and management of homeless populations - are they trained for it? If By Law is used for calls to homeless encampments, the stabbing murder of RCMP officer in Burnaby at an encampment shows the stakes and ByLaw officers should have adequate protection and training - would becoming Special Constables be the next necessary step? Much like Campus Security at Fanshawe and Western


Transit:


- It currently takes up to 1 year to properly change a route to address demand changes or logistical changes

- Planning transit after development is leading to some difficulties in adequately servicing new areas - this needs to be addressed

- London has a lot of GTA retirees moving here that are used to good transit

- Being a regional leader in many areas, including healthcare and higher education, requires us to have a great transit system. Our next council needs to be aware of that and be a supporter of making necessary change

- LTC drivers get 6-8 weeks of Customer Service training to be able to serve our diverse transit ridership

- Supply chain for electric buses is SEVERELY backed up

- Buses from October 21 order are still delayed

- There is an industrial plan in place to better service the new manufacturing areas of the city

- Having safe places to let people off on the routes like Veterans where traffic is travelling 90 km/h is hard, and harder when you consider issues compounded by snow removal practices

- We need to develop and engage an inter community transit plan, further compounded by rapid building in communities like Thorndale and Lucan, and large employers coming to places like Talbotville

- Sprawl is bad for buses, just like all other city services

- Transit affects work and social quality of life

- It would help transit in general if more elected leaders normalized it, rode the bus, posted about it online

- Operators at LTC are paid slightly below average and are poached by other municipalities, because they also know they have excellent training

- Planners at LTC are paid competitively

- We are seeing an increase in guns and knives pulled on operators - barriers were discussed before COVID for operator safety but were expedited with COVID and transit being an essential service

- I asked about creating free routes from RGI housing developments as this is common in other municipalities such as Cleveland where the downtown bus is totally free. I would like to examine this if elected, because LTC leadership believes it's easy to get free bus passes or tickets through ODSP/OW but I as a front line social service worker have seen different

- Another area of growing concern is Paratransit. It is subcontracted to a third party, and the riders are miserable because they can't get rides or get them when they need them, and the drivers are miserable because they are so poorly compensated compared to regular LTC operators


Homelessness/street level supports for women:

- My Sisters Place receives $153,000 a year from the City of London, which represents 20% of their funding, and they fundraise the rest

- A private donor helped them extend their service hours out of their own pocket

- Sustainable funding is a big barrier to service - hiring and retaining their amazing staff is a challenge when they don't have the resources to offer job stability, benefits, vacation, or pay grid climbing, as it is all dependent upon donations and grants received

- MSP is a low barrier drop in centre for women identifying persons, and they include people that aren't welcome elsewhere for things like behaviour or substance abuse

- The work is essential despite the funding being so precarious

- Services include laundry, showers, harm reduction, Nurse Practitioners, Micro enterprise support, and many others

- Other barriers faced include other agencies and medical providers working in silos, and not being able to get their clients to the care they need

- Their clients don't do well in shared living spaces, but can't afford anything else

- Rent Geared to Income Housing with supports available is key to addressing the crisis we are in

- 2 years ago, with City of London funding, 143 people were housed. 2 years later, 118 are still in housing.

- MSP served 50,000 meals per year during the pandemic.

- They also trained 650 LPS officers in de-escalating Mental Health crisis, as they recognize that it is not a job they are trained or equipped to do but are having to do it

- A key step forward is for our city to increase funding to services that exist and produce results



Meeting with a person experiencing homelessness:

- Three types of homeless - normal people who didn't find their place in society, struggling with substance abuse or mental health, and criminal/violent people there because of choices they've made in life

- This person went from RGI housing to homeless because they gave up their RGI place for a relationship with a homeowner that became abusive and then fell through the cracks when they left it

- Our current ability to offer space in shelters every other night through London Cares isn't helping anyone - it's not safe on the streets

- To get a private room in shelter, you pay all of your social assistance other than $70 a month for basic needs, can stay for up to 1 year

- Despite paying all but $70 of your monthly cheque, you also eat same meals as. people staying for free in dorms

- Lack of credit score makes moving on into sustainable housing very difficult, even with Housing Stability Bank helping with first and last

Things we can do better:

  • Be there with an open mind and door to hear concerns

  • Develop a rapport with homeless people and acknowledge their humanity

  • Build more RGI housing

  • Build more public bathrooms downtown. There's only 1 on Dundas Place.

  • Street level engagement can't be a 9-5, all hell breaks loose when staff clock out and go home to a warm house and meal

  • Give more support to authentic agencies doing the work and meeting people where they are like 519 Pursuit

  • Project Hope is another agency they spoke highly of

  • This person also spoke of other agencies, which I won't name, where the "inmates run the asylum"

  • In some shelters, staff ignore drug use in the dorms and don't use the three strike system they explain to every guest, and it makes residents without substance issues feel unsafe

  • Men in shelter make women residents feel uncomfortable with their advances and staff don't offer support/intervention

  • Not being able to bring your pet into shelter further compounds struggles, can traumatize further to lose that relationship and bond


Youth Homelessness/Shelter - Steve Cordes:


- Encampments are not the answer to our homeless problem, they are not safe and not good enough. Human Trafficking is one of many things occurring in encampments that we cannot be okay with

- London's Social Services community has good intentions, but working in silos is killing progress

- Prior to the YOU youth shelter for homelessness, there were 30 beds at Salvation Army reserved for youth, and the average use was 4, as the shelters just aren't safe for young people, and normal youth behaviours of hungry tired and frustrated homeless young people leading to swearing at staff got them banned

- There was an obvious demand and a want for safe spaces for youth experiencing homelessness, led to a business plan to the city

- Creating a safe space with privacy and access to transit and services but away from downtown was essential

- YOU created a steering committee for homeless youth to express what matters to them and what they need, included indigenous voices

- New shelter had same 30 beds as Salvation Army did, but behind closable and lockable doors and with pets welcome

- The funding hierarchy was federal - private donations - city in terms of amount contributed

- By focusing on a client-first restorative space, they had 18 residents on night 1 and were full within 2 weeks

- The focus is on diversion services and reconnecting families when possible

- One success story shared was that on December 28th, a resident was in hospital for mental health supports and discharged to YOU shelter. By September he is now working for $35/hr as a carpenter and giving back to the program.


Development:


I met with Mike Wallace, President of the London Development Institute. He gave me his and the organization's back story. 15 of 17 local developers pay a membership fee to LDI in exchange for representation as a group. LDI has a good reputation at City Hall, and has contributed in ways like helping with the London Plan and the Rethink Zoning steering committee. Previously, the LDI head was a construction engineer or a planner, and for the first time in 2018 they decided to change its leadership into relationship building and having an open door to moving forward in housing crisis. A white paper was created by LDI in June, called "London: A Place To Call Home", which includes a section on Affordable Housing. LDI also confirmed a committment to deep affordability in housing, and supporting the development of RGI housing to address the 6,000+ member wait. list.















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