Strategy Corps’ draft Community Safety and Well-Being Plan is headed to County council in the new year. The steering committee made the decision during a Dec. 15 meeting in which the draft was presented by consultant Lauren Wyman.
Wyman said that in consultation with Highlands’ service providers, about 30 organizations, as well as a community survey of more than 100 respondents, they’d identified four priority areas and a number of goals under each.
“The success of this plan lives and dies by community engagement and making sure the solutions that are developed are done so with the beneficiary citizen in mind,” Wyman said. Strategy Corps’ John Matheson said they were mindful of presenting the committee with “a useful addition to what you already had, not a replication,” which would put demands on a system already overtaxed.
The priority areas have been identified as: housing and homelessness; poverty and employment; mental health, substance use and addiction; and healthcare system access. Each has specific goals, with a total of 12.
Wyman noted many of the areas are interconnected. “Someone who is experiencing housing and homeless challenges may also, or likely is also, dealing with issues surrounding poverty and employment and some may also be trying to navigate the mental health or substance use supports in the community as well as [experiencing] medical conditions.”
She said they kept in mind that one issue can be compounded by another and none exist in isolation. For example, under housing and homelessness, goal two is to “develop wraparound support for community members struggling to access housing through greater service integration, communications, and outreach.”
Wyman said that could be achieved in part by developing a housing website that builds on existing platforms or sites to centralize information.
She said it sounds somewhat basic but there was “overwhelmingly a sense that there’s all these different services and resources and it’s really hard to understand where to access them so a basic first step of centralized information was something that people were interested in seeing come out of this.”
The report also noted enablers and risks to the plan. Enablers include a lack of public transportation and internet connectivity issues. Risks are funding and capacity, geographic distribution, population and demographic-based challenges, climate change and public health threats.
Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said the elephant in the room was money. “Who’s going to pay?” Steering committee chair Carol Moffatt said everybody at the table was aware of that.
She thought the County creating a navigator position to help stitch the plan together will help. Matheson said it might be about the County and lower-tier municipalities helping out where they can, but also finding efficiencies in what is already being done, and ultimately lobbying the province for more money.
Warden Liz Danielsen said the other challenge is the County has “no real ability to make anybody do anything.”
However, Moffatt said the people around the table who helped craft the plan were “skeptically enthusiastic” and willing to collaborate.
“Build the data set that provides for going forward. Is it going to be easy? Not on your life. Is it an incredible opportunity? Absolutely.” She said the navigator is key. “We can be the little train that could but we have to believe in it.”