City to review its approach to social issues

The city is undertaking a review of how it handles social issues and requests from community groups

The city is undertaking a review of how it handles social issues and is working towards a more coordinated approach for handling requests from community groups.

At its Monday night meeting, council directed staff to undertake a comprehensive review and analysis of the city’s current social planning initiatives and requested a report detailing the development of a more coordinated approach.

Kevin Brooks, the city’s development services supervisor, said social planning is essential to the well-being of a community and a more organized effort will allow the city to better respond to social service agency requests for help.

“Often community social projects are initiated by requests to council from social development groups and social service agencies, not through a city led social planning function,” Brooks said. “These requests are often ad hoc and come to council with short time frames requesting decisions for funding or provision of land to support programs and initiatives.”

The most acute challenge, Brooks said, is homelessness. The city has been working with Campbell River Family Services to establish a Sobering Assessment Centre on property the city swapped for with Discovery Chiropractic.

And, a partnership between the city and Radiant Life Church in 2013 brought about the existence of the temporary emergency winter shelter.

But, Brooks said, the city realizes more needs to be done and there will always be other social agencies looking for help, so the city needs to be prepared.

“The breadth of social programs, and the growing requests for assistance from social service agencies suggests that a more concerted approach is needed to ensure the city is ready to respond to community requests,” Brooks said.

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said the review council has ordered will help provide more clarity.

“The intent…was to ensure council had a complete picture of the social issues facing the community and the resource needs that may be required to address them,” he said.

Coun. Ron Kerr said a more coordinated approach to how the city addresses social planning is something he’s been waiting for for a long time.

“I think it’s been a long time coming,” Kerr said. “It’s not about downloading, it’s about the fact that we’re the feet on the ground and we have to deal with some of these issues. So it’s time. I think it’s important to look at this holistically, to look at the big picture and not just pick off the easy ones or the most obvious ones.”

Mayor Andy Adams thanked city staff for recommending the review to council and for coming to council with a report that outlines projects and initiatives the city and other agencies have already collaborated on.

“A report of this nature will help pull it all together, similar to what we’re doing with the Community Health Network (with the Strathcona Regional District and other stakeholders) in identifying areas we need to prioritize on and create some action items,” Adams.