The Boots on the Ground Approach : Time to be responsive to the needs of urban neighbourhoods.

One solution I have continued to advocate for is a 24/7 on the ground City presence to respond to the acute needs in our city’s core and to better coordinate responses to support all in our community.  This proactive City presence would include on-the-ground coordination of outreach services and mental health responses; integration of urgent housing response to encampments; responding to drug dealing and drug use in the community; organizing effective needle hunters collection routes; proactive city public works patrols; and integrating the Ottawa Police Neighbourhood Resource Teams.

As a result of years of hard work by my team and I and many community partners, earlier this year, a city-led Community Engagement Team pilot was introduced to address immediate community needs in the Lowertown and Sandy Hill neighbourhoods. This team will make it easier for businesses and residents to ensure modern and effective service responses and coordination proactively and effectively from the City.

This coordinated approach will work with other City departments (such as policing and social services) to help fill gaps and respond to service these needs more effectively.

The concentration of health and social services and reliance on emergency shelters in urban areas does not adequately address some of our city’s most serious challenges. These challenges continue to put pressure on residents, local businesses, emergency services (911), and Service Ottawa (311). To compliment these efforts, a new app will also be available for residents, businesses and service providers in the area will help gather the data needed to inform these system changes.

Like any growing city, Ottawa is faced with ongoing and increasing challenges related to housing and homelessness. We also know that the impacts of addiction, substance use, and mental health are severe and complex.

With this engagement team, health centres and housing agencies will also better respond to their growing needs.

The city is now, more than ever, recognizing the importance of on the ground and proactive responses to some of the direst situations surrounding homelessness, addictions, mental health, safety and cleanliness in the heart of our city. The city must play a front and center role in addressing these community needs all while building better responses and relationships in these neighbourhoods.

Serving Sandy Hill and Lowertown for now, I am eager to see this model expanded into other neighbourhoods to serve their unique needs. I am optimistic that this city team will bring better support and relief to residents and businesses’ urgent needs in our community.