Alyson King and Grace Lovekin made an emotional plea to Cobourg Council on Monday 25 November to do something about the problems that have happened Downtown and around the Transition House location at 10 Chapel Street since it reopened. Instead of being a true transition house for people temporarily without a place to stay, when it re-opened in October 2018 it became a “low-barrier emergency shelter”. Alyson said that “since it has reopened, the neighbourhood has experienced increased and recurring problems with public drug use, people sleeping outdoors, verbal abuse and intimidation, disruptions day and night including physical altercations, theft, and break-ins. While Transition House may not be the “cause” of these problems, it is clearly associated with them as the problems did not occur at this level until it reopened under the new model.
Alyson went on to say:
Between January and September 2019, one newspaper reported that emergency services were called to Transition House over 200 times: over 83 times to the Northumberland County Paramedics; over 100 times to the Cobourg Police; over 23 times to the Cobourg Fire Department (Today’s Northumberland). This amounts to almost daily disruptions simply due to EMS calls. Add in the non-reported disruptions and it is clear why those living near Transition House are feeling overwhelmed.
Grace gave some examples from people she called A and J. She detailed A’s experience over a 10 day period and it was nothing like what you’d expect in a Cobourg neighbourhood with intimidation, fights and intruders in her backyard.
J. – also has a 16-year old daughter. She lives two doors away from A. and experiences similar disruptions. In addition, she has found a gun and a knife on her front lawn, as well as debris from people shooting up in public spaces.
She went on to describe the experiences of K, two small business owners and some others.
You can see their eloquent emotional presentation in the links below – or click here.
They have formed a group called “Good Neighbours Coalition” and put together an online petition which describes what they are asking. Homelessness and welfare are primarily County responsibilities but the neighbours of Transition house live in the Town of Cobourg. Alyson said that they have not yet made a presentation to the County Council but plan to do so. They have spoken to the Police but have not yet made a presentation to the Police Board.
WHEREAS Cobourg is a compassionate community, we the undersigned ask Northumberland County and the Town of Cobourg to:
- Designate Transition House as true transition house supporting low-risk, unsheltered residents seeking permanent housing;
- Conduct a risk assessment (or environmental scan) to determine the risks of locating a high capacity, low-barrier emergency shelter in residential and business areas;
- Establish a specialized emergency shelter supporting those who are living with addictions, psychiatric disabilities, and dual diagnoses near emergency and support services.
We ask for these measures because:
- There has been a significant increase in acts of public opioid and other drug use, public safety concerns, violence, threats, intimidation and other law-breaking activities in the surrounding residential neighbourhood and business areas;
- Transition House is currently acting as a primarily publicly-funded, high capacity, low-barrier emergency shelter facility located in a family-oriented neighbourhood; and,
- The Northumberland Housing and Homelessness Plan 2014-2023 specifically calls for an examination of the existing shelter system and for an expansion of services.
Alyson pointed out that the idea of such a shelter might work in a big city but is clearly not working in a small Town like Cobourg.
In summary, they ask that Transition House return to its previous use and that a low-barrier emergency shelter be located near where help and relevant services are available.
When it came for action on this, Suzanne Séguin made a motion to get moving on the problem but Nicole Beatty, Adam Bureau, Brian Darling and Emily Chorley wanted an addition: they wanted to explicitly ask the Police, the County and the Affordable Housing Committee to get consulted and involved. The final Council motion would see solutions brought to Council by February 18, 2020. Stay tuned.
- Text of presentation by Alyson King and Grace Lovekin to Council
- Good Neighbours Coalition
- Link to petition – As of 26 November, more than 479 had signed.
Addendum 5 December 2019
Full Motion passed by Council on 2 December 2019 for actions re Transition House issue:
WHEREAS at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on November 25, 2019, Council considered a Delegation from Alyson King and Grace Lovekin, Good Neighbours Coalition Cobourg, regarding concerns about the emergency shelter downtown Cobourg;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council discuss the delegation with Northumberland County; and
FURTHER THAT Council request that the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee provide input and analysis on the recommendations presented by the delegation; and
FURTHER THAT Council request that the Cobourg Police Service Board provide information on the level of crime and disruption in the immediate area of Transition House; and
FURTHER THAT Council request information of Northumberland County regarding the recent change of operation of Transition House and any alternative options for low-barrier housing in the Cobourg area; and
FURTHER THAT Council request that all information is returned to Council by February 18, 2020.