City of Thunder Bay Working on Collective and Compassionate Approach to County Fair Homeless Camp

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City Manager Norm Gale
Norm Gale, City Manager.

Thunder Bay – NEWS – It has been a week since the City of Thunder Bay stood down on putting up a fence around the old Sunny’s Gas Bar on the County Fair Mall property. Earlier this week, a person in a pick-up truck drove through the makeshift encampment. Fortunately no was was injured.

While many people thought that the driver who drove through the encampment went over a tent with a person in it, fortunately, as sources tell NetNewsLedger that individual had left the tent to go to the washroom.

Otherwise it is likely that Thunder Bay could have seen someone die at the encampment.

NetNewsLedger reached out to Mayor Bill Mauro for a statement on this incident, the Mayor’s office and COTB communications branch has so far declined comment.

This week, the City of Thunder Bay, along with community partners, in a media statement say that they “have been working on addressing the needs of vulnerable people in the community for several weeks, most recently focused on responding to the situation at County Fair Plaza”.

“By supporting the most vulnerable in our community, we are improving the health and wellness of all. I am proud of the collective and compassionate approach of the many people and organizations involved, and the positive impact they are having,” says City Manager Norm Gale. “The City of Thunder Bay is committed to the health and safety of all citizens.”

When alerted to vulnerable people taking refuge, and sometimes sheltering outdoors, the group coordinates a compassionate response. A network of outreach workers connects with people to identify and address their specific needs, and links them with available services. This collaborative approach has been applied in different situations since the beginning of the year.

“Our aim is always to meet people where they are at, and make sure that they are safe and comfortable,” says Cynthia Olsen, Thunder Bay Drug Strategy Coordinator and Vulnerable Populations Table Chair. “We have already seen several people connected to services that meet their unique needs, and this is exactly the outcome we hope for. Interactions are respectful, compassionate and ensure each person’s dignity and personal preferences are upheld.”

In the recent situation involving people sheltering at a space in the County Fair Plaza parking lot, the involvement of various social services organizations led to new resources available to enhance support. This prompted the decision to pause the installation of fencing, and continue engaging people and providing them – based on their personal preferences and needs – supplies, housing supports, and/or social services coordination.

“Several organizations are already involved, and the group continues to grow. In the coming weeks, we will begin developing a formalized response processes to ensure the high-level of coordinated and impactful response continues in future,” said Olsen.

The group, the city claims will also continues to seek and act on opportunities to advocate for enhanced assistance for vulnerable people in the community. This includes pursuing provincial and federal funding to address the well-known gaps in supportive housing options in Thunder Bay. Although housing and poverty programs are not within its mandate, the City of Thunder Bay is contributing by coordinating the meaningful responses.