WINDSOR 2022: FRAMEWORK FOR CITY-WIDE STRATEGY ON HOMELESSNESS, OPIOID, AND CRIME WITH FOCUS ON DOWNTOWN

Posted on: September 25th, 2018

 

Windsor needs to be a safe, stable, and secure city to ensure long-term economic and social success. City-wide, and in the downtown core, Windsor is facing a serious opioid and crystal meth crisis, increasing homelessness, and rising crime.

As a city, we need to improve our quality of life and empower our residents. This means treating both the cause and the symptoms with short-, medium-, and long-term goals. We must bring the community together to restore our confidence in our city, especially our downtown core.

What does this mean? The Marchand for Mayor Campaign is looking at a comprehensive approach:

  1. Social Solutions
  2. Infrastructure Enhancements
  3. Business Building Strategy
  4. Neighbourhood Building Strategy
  5. Crime Prevention Strategies

It is important to move ahead with care and compassion to overcome these challenges and prosper as a community.

Over the past few months, the Marchand for Mayor Campaign has met with various local organizations, community groups, experts, other big city mayors, and residents. We’ve listened to issues, ideas, and possible solutions. The crisis in the Downtown, and all of Windsor, did not happen overnight and no one single person or government can solve it.

Windsor 2022 is open for additional ideas and we further welcome and invite the community to participate by providing their ideas and issues that they have been dealing with or seeing.

Thank you to the groups and individuals who have met with the campaign shared their thoughts and ideas for the good of the community. A thank you in advance to those who will reach out and send in their input or suggestions in the future.

Windsor 2022 should open up the debate on improving our city – and downtown. Citizens, organizations and employers can enhance Windsor 2022 with their own ideas. Research and experience are valuable allies in our fight to turnaround downtown.

When we all have a vested interest and are brought together, success can be reached. Windsor’s Downtown must be revitalized for the city as a whole to succeed and be competitive.

The Marchand for Mayor Campaign is kickstarting Windsor 2022 with up to $4 million in the first year. Where we have been able to identify cost estimates, we have provided them. There are some items that are low cost or simple changes in process and by-laws. Other items are major costs. An estimated $1.5 million has been identified in this strategy. The remaining $2.5 million would be put toward other parts of Windsor 2022 where we do not yet have a cost estimate.

It is worth stating that the cost of prevention and getting homeless people off the streets is far cheaper than solving the problem after the fact. The earlier we address the problem the better for the community.

VISION: It is our vision – and community goal – that by 2022 we will significantly reduce homelessness, opioid addiction, and crime in Windsor.

 

  1. SOCIAL SOLUTIONS

Windsor, like other communities, suffers from growing social challenges like homelessness, vandalism, mental health, addictions, and poverty. To combat these issues, we must consider long-term strategies undertaken by successful communities elsewhere and see how we can implement them locally using a Made-In-Windsor approach.

 

Homelessness

Homelessness is impacting the development and growth of our downtown core and is hurting our reputation. Windsor can look to Medicine Hat, Alberta, where they have eliminated homelessness, for ideas. Effectively ending homelessness in Medicine Hat, Alberta, has been associated with declines in crime rates as well as health care and child services costs, while saving taxpayers money.

As the mayor of Medicine Hat pointed out, if we get people off the street it saves police, emergency room visits, and justice system costs.

An effective Housing First strategy must assist the most vulnerable in our community: women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, young adults, and adults.

Our challenge is to ensure we have enough money to co-partner with government so we can maximize our participation in senior government programs

  • Windsor must stand ready to be aggressive in our participation of the 10-year, $40 billion National Housing Strategy fund, whose goal is to cut chronic homelessness by 50% and change the face of housing in Canada starting in 2019. We must also maximize other funding opportunities from federal, provincial, and community partners as they arise.
  • The City will look at in-kind donations, corporate and community donations, and land donations to keep costs low.

However there is more we can do:

  • Enact an inclusionary zoning by-law that will require developers to include social and affordable housing units in new residential developments.
  • Identify city-owned property as potential locations for new social or affordable housing. Consider rezoning non-residential land parcels into new residential parcels where suitable.
  • Refurbish tax-arrear, city-owned residential properties into new social or affordable housing stock, when appropriate. These houses can be located throughout the city, and should help mix social and affordable housing into established communities.
  • Accelerate the incentives (waive permit fees, expedite approvals) for the creation and proper use of “in-law suites” for aging parents, grown children, and other immediate family members recognized by law, so that individuals requiring support can find housing closest to the ones they love.
  • Pilot a Meters for Change program that lets pedestrians help address homelessness by donating pocket change to re-purposed parking meters. These “kindness meters” will support local shelters and Habitat for Humanity projects.
  • Continue to benefit from the experience of the Windsor-Essex Housing Corporation to manage municipal-owned social housing assets.
  • Continue to rely on Windsor-Essex Family Services to lead housing outreach services to the homeless and with potential landlords.
  • Build on the success of the City’s W.O.W H.E.L.P centre to continue to co-locate key services together. Presently housing, income, and employment services are co-located at City Hall, but other services like literacy and basic skills education (reading, writing, math, and digital) could be closer.
  • Continue to apply for and/or support community applications that garner new investments to support housing outreach workers who can help people move into housing, and connect them to employment, childcare, healthcare, and other government and social agency supports. Housing outreach and/or social assistance caseworkers can help people access resource programs like dietary allowances, housing subsidies, arrears funds, and other population specific services such as supports for indigenous, veterans, and people fleeing domestic abuse, in order to keep them off the streets and out of the shelter system.

 

  • The City will issue a call for proposals to establish a Wheels of Change pilot program in Windsor to hire homeless men and women to clean up alleys, streets, and parking garages. This program has been successful in San Diego, California. The City will identify priority areas where city staff do not clean or where they have been unable to refurbish a space due to scheduling/time constraints, so that this initiative will not displace any existing city workers. Cost estimate: for a vehicle, staff person, and wages for people participating in the Wheels for Change program (up to 12 program participants at living wage) – approximately $500,000.

 

  • One of the main issues homeless people face is one that has nothing to do with issues of mental illness, addiction, or unemployment. Many people living on the streets are often unable to look for work during the day or risk sleeping in a shelter at night because of the burden of having to cart – and guard – every item they own at all times. Until homelessness is resolved, this will be an ongoing concern for this population.

 

To help homeless people focus on things that can bring stability in their lives, the City will:

  • Create Transitional Storage Lockers with social service agencies to help the homeless. Windsor can learn from the experiences of San Diego and Los Angeles, where transitional storage lockers have helped some homeless transition to employment and stable lives. The City will look at corporate and community sponsorships and can assist with some costs for agencies willing to house and staff storage lockers on their premises. Cost estimate: $50,000.

 

  • Homeless people also face the stigmatization that is attached to living on the street, often causing isolation and making it difficult to overcome their situation. The homeless struggle with deep-rooted issues like self-worth and self-sabotage, and even if they receive help, they can feel housing guilt.

To help improve services, change the value narrative of homeless people, and build greater compassion across our community, the City will:

  • Help organize a Speakers Series in Windsor, like Voices from the Street in Toronto. Voices from the Street provides economically, politically, and socially marginalized individuals from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to bring their voices and perspectives to decision-making bodies that shape public policy.
  • Develop a social equality awareness campaign, helping to ensure the public is aware of the many reasons a person may be homeless and the challenges homeless people face in overcoming their situation.

 

Mental Health

Unmet mental health needs that are left unaddressed can lead to serious problems for individuals, families, and our community. When people lack the positive sense of well-being and the capacity to deal with life, challenges faced in daily life can feel insurmountable. Canadian Mental Health Association reports that mental illness can account for 23% of the total disease burden, yet Canada only dedicates about 7.2% of its health care budget to mental health.

To help maintain strong mental health for our residents and the community, the City will:

  • Work with the Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare Transitional Stability Centre to provide education and marketing initiatives on access to mental health services so the community knows where to go and how to get there.
  • Provide services and support to individuals in affordable housing on their recovery journey to ensure they keep their homes and are able to adapt to and manage daily lives.
  • Advocate for sustainable and predictable funding from the Government for mental health organizations to ensure programs are run uninterrupted and with adequate staffing levels.
  • Collaborate with Canadian Mental Health Association, Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare, and other community partners to build a comprehensive system of care.
  • Downtown residents need access to mental health, addiction services, emergency services, and family health services.
  • Recognizing that hundreds of children are on the wait list for mental health services, we must provide youth in schools with coping skills, resiliency, and other tools to manage and treat mental health early on.
  • Expand COAST (Community Outreach and Support Team) to address growing mental health issues in the community, adding one more COAST shift (requiring one additional mental health worker), covering 15 shifts during the week, up from 10. More details about expanding COAST can be found in section 5: Crime Prevention Strategies.

 

Drugs

The City’s strategy to effectively deal with drugs must be informed by research and work within the parameters of existing laws. The City must help ensure that a medical model for opioid treatment is also combined with a community based social services model to support the needs of those experiencing opioid dependence issues (e.g., support with finding housing and other social services). In fact, according to the Windsor Police Services’ 2017-2019 Strategic Business Plan, Windsor’s usage of opioids is 18.9% higher than the provincial rate and Windsor-Essex has the seventh highest rate of opioid users in Ontario.

In addition to opioid addictions, Crystal Meth is also a problem in our community and is driving the increase in petty crime in the city and across the province. While safe consumption sites and overdose prevention sites are necessary and a good first step, we need to have the next step and rehabilitation opportunities in place for it to be effective. We need to rely on research-based strategies to help people overcome their addictions and help our city win the fight against drugs.

To this end, the City will work with the Windsor-Essex Public Health Unit by:

  • Advocating for improved data sharing between law enforcement, public health, and other community stakeholders to improve response plans and early warning to reduce harms through data sharing agreements.
  • Educating the broader community and key staff in community settings on strategies to prevent, recognize, and respond to overdose. This includes:
    • Addressing stigma through education by promoting a cultural shift toward more positive attitudes related to harm reduction, acknowledging that abstinence is not always possible.
    • Providing access (and related training) to naloxone for medical and non-medical staff working in community settings where overdoses occur (e.g. shelters) and provide support for the development of organizational overdose policies and protocols. Cost estimates suggest $70 per kit. Cost savings are in the thousands for preventing an overdose death.
      • Naloxone, or Narcan®, is an antidote to opioid overdose. It reverses the effects of opioids by displacing opioids from their receptors, temporarily preventing the opioids from having an effect (Webber, 2016). Naloxone distribution programs have recently been extended to a variety of clinical settings, first responders, and other agencies in some communities.

 

Child Poverty

Although not exclusive to Windsor’s downtown, child poverty is an issue for the whole city. In fact, according to the most recent census, 1 in 4 children live in poverty locally with 1 in 3 children in Windsor West specifically living in poverty. Community social agencies and the City of Windsor, acting as the regional services provider for a number of social and community services that mitigate the impacts of poverty, need to work differently and in different ways to address this issue head-on. Children don’t choose the socioeconomic circumstances that they are born into, and many are born into generational poverty, so efforts undertaken by our City must give some children a head start, so everyone can finish the race.

To combat children living in poverty, the City will:

  • Support the ProsperUS – Cradle to Career Strategy (collective impact model approach).
  • Modernize the Poverty Reduction plan and the work of Pathway to Potential.
  • Ensure that municipal services, such as transit, childcare, and recreation programs, are better promoted and accessed by low-income families. When funds to support low-income families are being under-utilized, staff will be encouraged to identify ways to overcome barriers through research and networking with other similar municipalities.
  • Strongly support the Windsor-Essex County Public Health Unit’s Living Wage program and recognize local employers who remunerate their staff with a wage that recognizes daily living locally.
  • Collaborate with after school volunteer programs to provide organized recreation and life skills.

 

Social Innovations

Innovation should be encouraged, especially in social services. Social innovations offer new approaches to old problems, and the City could use the help.

To benefit from the industrious mindset of a new wave of social-conscious entrepreneurs, the City will:

  • Support new social enterprise start-ups whose missions aim to tackle some of the City’s toughest problems by covering the cost of their rent at the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator Centre for their first 12 months of operation. Cost estimate: approximately $30,000 annually to support two to three start-ups.

 

  1. INFRASTRUCTURE ENHANCEMENTS

In addition to all the cyclical upkeep and replacements required to support the City’s infrastructure, the City must make additional infrastructure enhancements to make downtown more appealing for people to live, work, and visit.

 

Transportation

The City needs to encourage a more diverse use of transportation systems beyond the traditional automobile. The City will:

  • Ensure that future roadwork plans will – by default – include bike lanes, offering a more complete transportation network for residents. Where bike lanes are not possible; the City will need to explain their exclusion.
  • Aim to reduce commute times for public transit users by shifting to an east-west and north-south grid format with the goal of moving people from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, instead of street to street. This will make transit easier to navigate, ensure faster service, and create shorter commute times. The details of this plan will be developed by Transit Windsor, through consultation with the public.
  • Work with Tecumseh and Lakeshore to better connect people to jobs and jobs to people through public transit. We need to pilot a jobs bus to ensure that the unemployed population living in Windsor can reach good employment opportunities on Patillo Road and/or Old Castle area. This is in our region’s best interest.
  • Pilot a pedestrian scramble walkway at the Ouellette and University Ave intersection to help make crossing a busy intersection easier and safer. Research at Transport for London suggests the installation of a diagonal crossing can reduce pedestrian casualties by 38%.

 

Alleyways

There are times when residents feel unsafe in the alleyways behind their homes. To help deal with overgrowth, lighting concerns, and other known safety issues in alleys, the City will:

  • Create an alleyway improvement fund to deal with problematic alleyways over the next four years. In cases where new electrical connections are costly, solar will be used to power lighting. Cost: allocate $50,000 for new alley lights, estimated at $1,800 each.

 

Community Heritage

Windsor has a rich history that includes key communities, important landmarks, and historic buildings. Windsor has a story that can be shared more proudly and publicly.

To celebrate our history, the City will work with historical stakeholders and property owners to:

  • Create sidewalk plaques that will share our rich history with residents and visitors who pass by historically significant areas. A volunteer committee, reporting to the Planning, Heritage & Economic Development Standing Committee, will be used to help prioritize historically significant sites for plaques; however, to offset costs and increase neighbourhood pride, community groups, companies, and individuals could prioritize qualified sites by paying for the creation and installation of these plaques as well.

The city will continue to make Windsor an attractive place to live, work and visit by:

  • Creating a new fund to support public art installations. The calls for new public art installations will be overseen by the Community Public Art Advisory Committee, which reports to the Social Development, Health & Culture Standing Committee. They will reflect not only our past and present, but also our desired future. The Committee will partner with and support local artists. Cost estimate: $50,000 annually for up to 10 projects.
  • Encouraging Heritage Building Renovations by establishing a means to make renovating heritage-designated housing more affordable for families.

 

  1. BUSINESS BUILDING STRATEGY

Our downtown is not reaching its full potential. Not only do businesses and residents in the core want to see a thriving and robust downtown, but residents living outside the core have the same aspiration. To draw a greater number of potential customers downtown, the city must work with downtown businesses and the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association in a more coordinated way.

Furthermore, the city will:

  • Pilot free parking on Saturdays for up to 6 months to make travelling and parking downtown to shop, visit markets like the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market, and enjoy a meal, a little easier for residents and visitors.
  • Reduce the financial and process burden on restaurant owners who want to create outdoor patios, including rooftop patios. Patios draw new patrons to businesses because they allow people to enjoy the outdoors and take in the city or waterfront around them, while enjoying some delicious food or drink.
  • Examine by-laws to permit a pilot project for a monthly Food Truck Meet-Up, where food truck operators can setup in a designated public space to draw workers outside of their place of work and regular routines during lunchtime hours. This encourages workers to get outside, walk more, and explore areas of the city that they may never have been during their lunch. Downtown businesses will benefit from more people exploring the city and discovering their businesses.
  • Name, shame, and use other pressure tactics to get absentee landlords to develop and rent properties. Vacant store fronts will no longer benefit from lax property tax rules. As well, have legal measures in place to better leverage empty spaces.

 

  1. NEIGHBOURHOOD BUILDING STRATEGY

If we want to attract new residents downtown, we need to create neighbourhood ambassadors who love where they live because they are invested in its success. This can be achieved through grassroots neighbourhood-building where residents take the lead and the city supports them.

  • Recently, the City of Kitchener won a national planning award for its neighbourhood strategy called Love My Hood. The City recognized that the best neighbourhoods are made by the people who live there. Through extensive, community-wide consultations, engagements, and surveys, residents and community groups can help improve their neighbourhood by applying for and leading small funding grants. These initiatives could include community gardens, pop-up markets, neighbourhood movie nights, alley parties, and more.

Using best practices from the Kitchener model, the City will:

  • Replicate this neighbourhood engagement model locally by providing similar support, easy-to-use tools, and increased funding for the projects our neighbourhoods care about the most. Give small grants to community and neighbourhood groups to improve areas they identify as requiring some extra care. Cost estimate: $50,000.

To foster even stronger neighbourhoods, the City will:

  • Create a Special Advisor to the Mayor on City-Wide Strategy on Homelessness, Opioid, and Crime with Focus on Downtown point person, located in City Hall, to lead and implement strategies outlined in this document and/or its successor.
  • Lead by example and engage the community and City Council on community clean-up days.
  • Support programs such as Little Things Matter and other positive community initiatives.
  • Learn from the experiences of neighbourhood building in Detroit. What worked, what did not, and how can we learn from those experiences?

 

  1. CRIME PREVENTION STRATEGIES

To prevent and reduce crime, we must complement the efforts of police services and the criminal justice system with community safety, including preventative measures, and greater public engagement.

Effective crime prevention strategies begin with diagnosing the incidents and causes of crime through local safety audits. Municipalities need to invest in identifying the local causes of crime in order to make informed decisions about priority issues.

To keep our City safe, the following new initiatives will be undertaken by Windsor Police Services (WPS):

  • Increase the Windsor Police Service’s DIGS (Drugs and Gun Enforcement) Unit by 50%. Add an additional team (hiring 5 new officers and 1 sergeant) for the DIGS Unit. Cost estimate: approximately $650,000 in salaries for the new team annually.
  • Increase of friendly police presence in the Downtown. To provide greater presence later at night when most crimes are being committed, WPS will add additional foot patrols in the downtown area. Presence is key. Cameras are not a preventive measure, many criminals – especially gangs – do not care if they are caught on camera.
  • Expand COAST (Community Outreach and Support Team) to address growing mental health issues in the community. COAST, a partnership between the Windsor Police Services and the Community Crisis Centre of Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare, is currently comprised of two shifts of one plain clothes police officer and one social worker. Many individuals with mental health issues do not feel comfortable speaking with police officers, but will open up to mental health experts. Add one additional COAST shift (requiring one additional police officer), covering 15 shifts during the week, up from 10. Utilize Hamilton’s COAST program as a guideline to enhance our current COAST program. Create a 24/7 crisis line, offer COAST for Youth, COAST for Adults, and COAST for Seniors (currently COAST covers those ages 16+) and add at least one additional mental health worker to COAST. Cost: potentially one additional Windsor Police Officer at $100,000 total annually.
  • Aim to accelerate police officer return to active duty through organizational improvements and mental health advocacy. Protect the people who protect us.
  • Windsor Police Services’ Annual Report to be presented to the community in an open session for greater transparency and accountability.
  • Proactively request that Windsor Police Services initiate the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) to run a project locally to keep our city and border safe, targeting gun traffickers. Request additional officers from the province to form a full PWEU in Windsor, noting that it is a border city and a conduit for guns coming into Canada from the S.
  • Educate residents on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design with WPS and community partners through regular information sessions.
  • Identify areas in the City that are in need of more lighting and install. This also includes lights along our waterfront and trails so they can be utilized at night. As a pilot project, identify areas and install emergency phone boxes along the waterfront and trails, similar to Detroit’s Dequindre Cut.

COST ESTIMATE BREAKDOWN

The Marchand for Mayor Campaign will kickstart Windsor 2022 by allocating up to $4 million to the implementation of the strategy. Estimated costs for items we have identified is approximately $1.5 million. The remaining $2.5 million will go toward items for which we do not currently have an estimate.

  • Wheels of Change Pilot Program: Approximately $500,000 (covers vehicle, staff person, and up to 12 program participants at living wage).
  • Transitional Storage Lockers: $50,000.
  • Narcan Kits: Cost estimates suggest $70 per kit. Cost savings are in the thousands for preventing an overdose death.
  • Support new social enterprise start-ups through the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator Centre: approximately $30,000 annually to support two to three start-ups.
  • Alleyway improvement fund: allocate $50,000 for new alley lights, estimated at $1,800 each.
  • Fund to support public art installations: $50,000 annually for up to 10 projects.
  • Small grants for neighbourhood and community improvement: $50,000.
  • Increase Windsor Police Service’s DIGS (Drugs and Gun Enforcement) Unit by 50%: approximately $650,000 in salaries for the new team annually.
  • Expand COAST program: approximately $100,000 for one additional WPS officer.

Total estimated cost identified $1.5 million