Joint City/Region Task Force to tackle homelessness, addiction issues in Oshawa’s downtown

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Published August 23, 2021 at 1:45 pm

The City of Oshawa and the Region of Durham have established a joint task force to combat homelessness, mental health and addiction issues in downtown Oshawa.

Durham Chair John Henry – a former Mayor of Oshawa – and Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter acknowledged in a joint statement that residents and business have voiced concerns about “activities” in the city’s downtown and that “more action” is needed.

Some of those actions the Task Force will be performing include:

  • Prioritizing street, park and private property clean up.
  • Working closely with Lakeridge Health on addiction and treatment services through a street outreach team.
  • Developing an updated local opioid response plan, including reviewing needle distribution.
  • Continuing Durham Police proactive presence.
  • Proactive enforcement of property standards by-laws.
  • Working with community agencies to reinforce the commitment to being a housing-focused community by expanding housing first initiatives.
  • Supporting the City of Oshawa’s work with businesses and residents.
  • Regular updates on collective actions taken to end chronic homelessness in Durham by 2024.
  • Reviewing support services offered by the Region and community partners to identify service gaps.

The Task Force will have representatives from Durham Region Social Services, Durham Region Health Department, Durham Regional Police Service, Lakeridge Health, and the City of Oshawa.

The statement declared that many cities and towns have witnessed an increase of mental health challenges, addictions and housing needs because of the pandemic and these issues are “particularly prevalent” in Oshawa.

“We have acknowledged concerns from residents, Oshawa downtown businesses, organizations and visitors regarding concerning activities in the downtown, homelessness, mental health and addictions, as well as economic development concerns directly related to these complex issues, and that more action is needed,” the statement read. “We are working diligently to ensure all residents feel safe and supported.”

The Task Force is currently reviewing the concentrated support services offered by the Region and community partners; identifying gaps and duplication of services and taking steps to help all involved. A Community Code of Conduct for recipients of support services is also being created, as well as a region-wide Street Outreach and Encampment Strategy for ‘tent city’ issues.

Planning is underway at the City to develop a revitalization strategy for downtown Oshawa and to continue expanding public art and civic pride initiatives. The Region plans to open the Oshawa Micro-Homes Pilot Project and complete its Community Safety and Well-Being Plan to address priority risk factors with strategies and measurable outcomes.

Both Durham Region and Oshawa have also called on all federal party leaders and Durham Region candidates in the federal election, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Premier Doug Ford and provincial representatives to tour downtown Oshawa next month.

“The purpose of the tour,” Carter and Henry said, “is to gain a better understanding of the complexity of homelessness, mental health and addiction and the impact on our community.”

“This cannot be solved without support and direction from our federal and provincial partners.”

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