Neighbours Unhappy with Transition House Usage

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 King and Grace Lovekin
Alyson King and Grace Lovekin

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.

Petition text:

WHEREAS Cobourg is a compassionate community, we the undersigned ask Northumberland County and the Town of Cobourg to:

  1. Designate Transition House as true transition house supporting low-risk, unsheltered residents seeking permanent housing;
  2. 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;
  3. Establish a specialized emergency shelter supporting those who are living with addictions, psychiatric disabilities, and dual diagnoses near emergency and support services.
Transition House
Transition House

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.

Links

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.

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Deborah O'Connor

I don’t know if I am angry or sad after reading these comments, seemingly mostly coming from “old white guys” who are seemingly utterly devoid of understanding or compassion. When I worked in Toronto at a tiny agency in 1980-81 whose purpose was to find housing for people, many were homeless. Dumped out of the big mental health centre at Queen and Ossington in the name of de-institutionalization, they swamped us with their desperate need for housing they could afford. At Cobourg’s Help Centre, we had our first family living in their car by 1988. This family was soon followed by more and the need for a shelter became clear even then. It took years of hard work and persuasion before Transition House was opened by the County. It’s still primarily the County that operates and funds Transition House and they deserve our gratitude and thanks for having the foresight to see, and meet, the need for everyone to have a roof over their heads. It sounds to me that we need shelters in all our urban centres from Port Hope up to Campbellford and down to Brighton. Raising the welfare rates and minimum wage would help but we’d still… Read more »

perplexed

I agree there is a Need and a problem and like every thing else in Northumberland Cnty. we are being out paced Its obvious Cobourg is becoming known as the location to come or send your needy so why not handle it correctly and ramp up for the Volume . ” Old White Guys ” let me tell you I would take a team of experienced Old White Hairs man or woman that will tackle the problem head on –over a bunch of young idealistic , sympathy seekers looking to get Govt. funding for the dream The real world is getting tougher & Our attempts to deal with the homeless are falling behind and our ability to handle an even more difficult and aggressive Drug Culture is even worse Most of the mental health organizations in Northumberland are just window dressing and not equipped or wanting to handle the people at Transition House
nor are these people willing to go .
We need people of Action !

Bill Prawecki

Why pick on the “Old white guys”? Your point about the centre on Queen St is a valid one. The government at the time closed the facility and dumped the folks out on the streets and just let the poor folks fend for themselves. They spilled out onto the streets of Queen and King fending for themselves. Many unable to do so, unable to take their meds and most lived in dumps owned by slum-landlords. Some of these huge Victorian homes as now being sold and the tenants are being dumped back on the streets. I also agree with you that this is a Northumberland challenge and similar facilities should be available in Port Hope, Brighton etc …. wonder how Port Hope residents would react if this was occurring in their town? Some suggestions should also be entertained … such as using the under utilized Brookside site to house these folks …. but I guess it would be difficult to get the MPP/MP to move on this. As I stated earlier this is complex and needs our local politicians to stand up and take action.

perplexed

Its not Complex unless you make it
its a problem deal with it
We have to many agencies and do nothing committees
that we listen to
Where is Bob Sanderson when you need him

Lois Lane

Deborah – Glad to see you feel such strong concern. Myself I am not an old white guy. It is evident that many people on the street and using services at Transition House have addiction and mental health problems. There are some also that have slipped through the cracks – ain’t society a wonderful thing! However the ability to rent a place is beyond many with these problems. The upkeep, paying the rent are beyond their ability at this time and they are unable to live in society. I have witnessed bizarre behaviour right around where I live with attendant theft problems. Yes, closing the mental health facities was a very poor move for accommodation greatly needed along with the continuous building of condos well above many people’s ability to pay. Rental housing that is affordable is greatly needed not just by people on the down and out. Myself Deborah – I ran an half way house for newly released inmates from all levels of correctional services, live in. Many needed life copinjg skills, I worked all over Toronto desiring to know more about this updated workforce and saw so many struggling to get employment at all – many Deborah… Read more »

Gerald Childs

Old White Guys! Really?

Frenchy

“When I worked in Toronto at a tiny agency in 1980-81 whose purpose was to find housing for people, many were homeless. Dumped out of the big mental health centre at Queen and Ossington in the name of de-institutionalization, they swamped us with their desperate need for housing they could afford.”
What has that got to do with Transition House or Cobourg’s lack of affordable housing now or then.

Bill Thompson

A suggestion re the homeless etc.
I know very little about Brookside Youth establishment except there are facilities, accommodation services there with very few youth occupants.
Possibly could that be considered as an asset in dealing with this ever increasing problem?
Just a thought about an under-utilized facility.

perplexed

Nothing wrong with Rules these people — know their wrights —- to be supported , sheltered ,live off the system
its what they do with what they are given that makes the difference in the end .
If you live , stay and use the public services you simply fallow the RULES and its the Management at
Transition house that has to enforce them ie no drinking , use of drugs , fighting ,loud and aggressive behaviour , may be some contribution to work while there Behave the same as ridding our buses .
Attending a Town Council meeting etc

John Green

Yeah, these people need control.
One of the long term goals of the socialist climate change agenda is to greatly expand social housing where people can be made to be “sustainable” and watched for their own good. There’s your answer. It’s in the works. You’ll support it, and you’ll like it.

Mary

Yes, it is called…’Order out of chaos’..

Rational

From comments provided the consensus is: a) Transition House is a concern requiring an immediate action plan, leading to a permanent plan, b) there is a broader similar issue in other areas in the downtown core, and c) Town Leadership could do more in a more immediate fashion versus deferring pending collecting more information.

As with most topics posted, once a new one surfaces the previous one drifts away. What is the best course of action to hold Town Leadership accountable and focused on this issue, in particular the shorter term issue relating to the Transition House re a) above?

Ken Strauss

What is the best course of action to hold Town Leadership accountable and focused on this issue?

Contact our town’s Councillors and Mayor to discuss your concerns. Their contact info is at https://www.cobourg.ca/en/council-members.aspx?_mid_=125368
It would be great to post their responses here.

John Green

It’s all part of the plan. It has already been decided. Spin your wheels and pretend you have a say in anything.
Thats my opinion on this…and that too. lol

I remember when there was opposition to walmart….l was like yeah right like you have a say? It was years in the planning! The infrastructure was in! Lol
But dont let me stop the debate. I know its kind of satisfying to play. I do myself.
Here is my contribution…
Maybe someone should suggest they move into Vic Hall, lol that could happen. Start a march or a sit in? Tell them that it fights climate change!

Ben

Speaking sense are you John Green “Move into Vic Hall”; a rubbish comment, or just being provocative in a juvenile way. As to your observation about Walmart in typical ‘absolutist’ fashion you missed the issues and decried the opposition. If you really followed the situation over the many years of development on that land you would understand the infrastructure was there for a ‘business park’ not a big box store. Buildings don’t care about infrastructure but but no buildings, of any sort without it. The argument was never the populist claim of “We want a Walmart” it was about the best planning for a piece of prime industrial land.

John Green

Wow, thats one beautiful house!

Bill Prawecki

I commend both Alyson King and Grace Lovekin for the courage to present at this week’s council. From reading their simple requests it sounded quite reasonable to me. We are indeed dealing with a complicated issue or challenge here. What strikes me as odd is that the Transition House is the only such facility in Northumberland County. Why is there no such facility in Port Hope, Grafton, Colborne and Cambellford? Why are we never privy to any such delegations at the County level, as these folks did present with little feedback from what I heard? I would love to have heard from the representation from the Greenwood Coalition who were present at the delegation presentation. What is there position on Transition House and concerns raised at the meeting. Although I could not stay for the entire Council meeting I did watch the entire meeting online at home. It would seem that the Council struggled for almost 20 minutes of wordsmithing to get the right parliamentary wording for the motion to be followed with regular sessions, meetings and report back in mid Feb 2020. I would have expected the Mayor to step forward to set up a meeting with the county… Read more »

Anne

I agree wholeheartedly with Bill’s comments. This is a very complicated issue but one that demands immediate steps towards resolution. I too attended the film ‘ Us and Them’ screening at The Loft. It’s FREE (Dec 2& 4th )and well worth seeing, both to better understand the homeless issue and one’s role in it. It would be interesting to hold focus groups with Transition House clients …their comments would undoubtably help inform the best steps to move forward on resolving this issue.

Kyle

If you build it, they will come.

perplexed

Clearly Transition House can not manage or control the people they suggest they are helping
from what we hear see and what the Peterborough news indicates there is a lot of abuse , fighting and unruly
behavior there which requires policing . Has this property / service become a Nuisance factor ? Obviously !
Time for the Operators to shape up or ship out . Poor management and control will be to the of the needy

R M

Is this issue directly related to Transition House (who are trying to address homelessness following the evidence-based housing first model) or it is a growing statement around the affordability of housing and the lack of services in our area? Many parts of Cobourg have seen these changes, and are experiencing the challenges associated when the demand for services (mental health, addiction, housing) is greater than the availability.

Gerinator

Presentation has the right amount of passion and facts. For me what is missing is a response/position by the Transition House leadership/reps. For instance – how did the mandate move from a ‘true transition house’ to a low-barrier emergency shelter? The 3 month delay (Nov19-Feb20) is a minimum to deliver solutions; followed by 3 – 6 month consultation (public, protection, experts, county, budget-impacts); decision; 3 months of implementing the decision. In another words potentially another 12 months minimum (my opinion). Given the facts stated in the presentation is this potential of 1 year interval not putting the residents and businesses, near Transition House, at greater risk? During this period is there no way that a better screening can be employed in the selection from that user community and lower the risk to residents?

Ken Strauss

The true crisis in Cobourg has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with the changes to those in our downtown. Councillors have endlessly debated and funded schemes to “vitalize” the downtown. On Monday Council acted decisively to condemn bottled water yet a clear danger to those shopping, working and living downtown was ignored with a vague motion mentioning reports, consultation and doing nothing substantive. With the current trend, downtown will be beyond saving when we elect different Councillors in 2022.

Cobourger

Yes Ken, there is no climate crisis. We get it, the Conservative Party of Canada would be so proud of you.

CiW

Ken, did I miss it? Where was climate change mentioned as part of the issue?

Ken Strauss

Where was climate change mentioned as part of the issue?

I apologize if the connection was unclear. On Monday Council dealt with several issues including a “climate crisis” in Cobourg, banning water bottles from events on town property and the great increase in petty crime/ indigents/ intimidation/ drug users in the downtown. The critical issues of the climate change crisis and water bottles were dealt with decisively. The crime/ intimidation/ drug problem was addressed with a call for consultation and reports beginning as early as February 2020.

Why am I reminded of stories regarding asylum management?

Walter Luedtke

Hahaha!
Deja vu all over again.
Ken Strauss opined in November, 2017:
“What is the solution? Replacing our politicians and town staff who ignore Cobourg citizens who pay their salaries would be a huge step in the right direction.”
In 2018, we elected some new Councillors.
Ken, does not like the new crop much either.
Maybe some CTA folks will run in 2022.
Doubt it though.

Canuck Patriot

Cobourg needs a socialist crank on Council. Especially one who thinks unlimited spending, more debt and higher taxes are okay.

Ken Strauss

Yes, Walter, I am consistent. Replacing politicians and town staff who ignore Cobourg citizens is a necessary step. We still have 3 Councillors from the previous regime and some of the new are worse than the old members.

I assume from your posting that you favour fighting the climate emergency by banning water bottles and rezoning to allow a shopping centre with a drive-thru while ignoring crime in our downtown?

Walter Luedtke

Chuckles.
So you are running in 2022, Ken?
Or are you getting long in the tooth like me?

Walter Luedtke

The topic is Transition House and what can be done about the situation.
Ken thinks a new Council and maybe new Staff.
Could be.
But riding a bike does not seem to offer a solution, no?
Maybe a unicycle?

Rational

For the recent newcomers to this discussion the connection between the Transition House and Council is that Council does not appear to be effectively doing its job i.e. more decisive and immediate action. This is a common tread throughout the comments provide. Also to the newcomers on this discussion, the discussion is about safety and not climate control.

Ben

Why would the CTA run candidates in 2022, Walter, they have influencers on this Council!

Donald Pirie

During this past summer, while residents in the vicinity of Chapel and Division had to cope with the horrific situation described above, other residential neighborhoods in the downtown experienced a significant increase in petty crime – property trespass, attempted break ins, thefts, etc. In our two block street alone there were seven car break ins and theft of a contractor’s tools. Whether related at all to the fact that it coincides with Transition House adopting the so-called “low barrier” model, it seems coincident with an apparent increase in homeless and drug dependent people in the downtown. This problem is disrupting the safety and security of many residents of this town, and not just the Chapel St. neighborhood.

perplexed

do you mean George & Buck st . Corner that had no windows in it for most of the summer
I see the MOR CAP agent sold that property and its presently being rejuvenated and those tenants are no longer Thank you
The Police were there 40 times in 120 days

cornbread

Perhaps our police dept could “patrol on foot” in our downtown areas that are having the current problems. One constable could cover and recover a large area in a 6 hour shift. Worth a try???

Old Sailor

You just have to walk around the King & Division Street area – one block north, south or east – and you will notice the influx of newcomers who look dead broke and some appear to be mentally challenged, possibly from drug abuse. A week ago I walked across Division on King and there was a man who just strode into the middle of the intersection and started yelling profanities at a driver turning north onto Division. The man just went crazy for no apparent reason. Then he started banging on the car’s window before the driver could escape and speed away. Coming back as I crossed through the same intersection I noticed a very down and out looking man walking north on Division from the lake, with his fishing rod. Possibly hoping to have caught his dinner in the harbour – in November. That area has changed dramatically. More and more down and out men leaning on lamp posts with nowhere to go. Hanging around Transition House or Trinity United Church or on the downtown sidewalks. It would not take Council very long to see what is going on in downtown Cobourg. Just go for a walk at lunch.

perplexed

I indicated 2 wks ago that the Bus shelter by the Rink was now a day time location for the homeless if thats what they really are while the senior Bus rider stands out in the rain / cold waiting for the bus

CiW

I’ve maintained for years that what Cobourg is suffering from is a lack of good quality employment. The loss of General Foods ( Kraft ), General Electric and the shut-down of General Motors have dealt a major blow to the town. The money provided by those companies and the benefits provided are very difficult to replace. Striking a committee to seek out a new major industry might go farther than a Vitalization Committee.

JimT

I suspect large-scale factory work for the masses is a thing of the past. Foreign competition and robotics are the norm now.
The question for all of western civilization now seems to be “how will we provide purpose and meaning for the lives of the no-longer-working classes?”
It’s a biggie, for sure.

cornbread

Canada brings in thousands of workers from the Carribean Islands and other countries every year…they work for about 10 months…seems to me we have a problem getting our more unskilled labour the incentive to work. Perhaps a bit more force is needed to get our unskilled to work rather than receive a hand out paid by the taxpayers.

Rational

It “appears” Town Leadership (TL) is interested in dealing with this issue, but as with past issues TL asks for more information and defers. In this case given the extreme nature of what is happening daily and that the facility is not being used as for the reasons it was initially opened, why wouldn’t TL consider a temporary solution to materially reduce disruption/incidents; or consider closing the facility until a satisfactory solution is determined. Remaining status quo pending more information (3 months away) does not seem to be the best option given the number of times emergency services/police have been called

Cobourger

Closing the facility until a new solution is found would put a lot of people onto the street, which would create a number of new issues. Not a good idea.

cornbread

TL is too occupied with climate change and not smart enough to tackle the real needs of this town. Also, where is our police dept.concerning this issue?

Merry Mary

I’ve witnessed the Police on several occasions dealing with individuals at the Bus/Rink Shelter and last week I saw the Police who had transported, and assisted, two people with few belongings move into a Cobourg residence.