'Many Spaces, Many Locations' takes aim at contributors to homelessness
Gerry Dewan, CTV London
Published Friday, March 29, 2019 6:55PM EDT
In the mass of bodies moving along Dundas Street Friday a single figure stood out.
He swings, sways, pivots and stumbles. Others cautiously move around him. The most likely factors contributing to his behaviour are alcohol abuse, drug abuse and mental health issues. In many cases it’s a combination of those factors.
Jan Richardson, manager of the City of London’s Strategic Initiatives, says the concern is that moments like this can result in aggressive behaviours.
"We have seen an increase in the disruptive, unpredictable, street-involved behaviour."
Now 14 agencies, along with the city, are launching what is being called the 'Many Spaces, Many Locations' initiative.
Richardson says a coordinated effort will focus on the street-level impacts of mental health and addictions and how they contribute to homelessness.
"The drugs that are on the street now are causing such significant changes in behaviour."
The closure of crash beds at Mission Services was a catalyst for the initiative and resulted in what is being called a ‘Resting Spaces’ approach which will make short-term accommodations available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Anne Armstrong is executive director of London Cares, a program that reaches out to those living on the streets.
She says, "This is a game-changer, in that spaces will be available and open, you know; for two hours, for four hours. You can have a safe place that's inside."
Raymond Deleary is director of operations for Atlohsa Family Healing Services which will be one of the locations adding resting spaces.
“It could even be that those that appreciate the services that we offer, who may not be indigenous, they also have an opportunity to experience that and to us that's meaningful."
A centralized database, started last year, is designed to better track those who use various services and will be used get people into programs and services that can result in stable housing and supports.
Youth Opportunities Unlimited Executive Director Steve Cordes says the coordinated effort will limit confrontations on the streets and, more importantly, turn lives around.
"There's tragedy behind each one of these situations that we would see as a disruption to our neighbourhoods, to the downtown, wherever we bump into these folks. But there's always tragedy and there's always trauma behind these cases. And for service providers like us, we can always help these individuals rebuild."
Agencies say coordinating their efforts and stretching resources will mean no new funding will be needed.
'Many Spaces, Many Locations' will operate as a pilot project from April 1 until Oct. 31 and be reassessed at that time.
But the hope is that, with refinements, the program will become a permanent part of the effort to address homelessness and street safety.