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Strathcona Residents Association November 1 Meeting

Monday, October 23, 2017

 

SRA NOVEMBER MEETING
WEDNESDAY NOV 1, 7-9 PM
STRATCHCONA COMMUNITY CENTRE

Agenda:

Ross Kenny, the Senior Design Engineer in charge of bike routes, will be presenting final plans for improvements to the Union Street bikeway, including the Vernon/Adanac closure and the one-way going in between Dunlevy and Gore. 

Updates on efforts to get a provincial environmental assessment for the upcoming Centerm Port Expansion and the plan to extend William's Street through Strathcona Park.



Minutes from October:

Strathcona Residents Association 

Strathcona Community Centre

October 4th, 2017

7.10-8.30pm

 

  • Sign in sheet
  • Save Strathcona Park (SPARK) reminder. Flyers available for residents to take along for conversations/education with neighbours. Also attached sheet with opportunity to sign up to volunteer.
  • Discussion about common ground for diverse residents of Strathcona.
    • We envision tonight to be an open conversation about common ground. Strathcona is our common ground. But it is not a single community. It is a collection of communities. Very different communities, separated by language, by income, by housing, by background, by the basic challenges and struggles we face every day.  Confronted by all this diversity, some feel threatened, some feel excluded, some feel abandoned. The all-too-human reaction is to retreat into our smaller community and put up walls. Us versus them. But is that our only choice? Is it possible, on some level, to create a community that includes all of us? A place where we all feel safe. All feel included. All feel that we belong. Can we be diverse - and also unified in our respect for and love of "Strathcona"? That is the big question of tonight’s conversation. We’ve invited many perspectives to share in this conversation. 
    • Introductions all around. The great majority of those present are Strathcona residents. 
    • How many people feel safe in this neighbourhood? Most raise their hands. Some people don’t feel safe in the community. Why? 
      • Methadone clinic introduced without consultation. Entrance is in the back lane without security or policing of the activity. Once individuals leave facility they threaten us. It is progressively getting worse. Threatened with mace, violence, threatening to damage/destroy belongings. Has been happening since March. Occurrences daily 7am-7.30pm, 7 days a week. 500 block of East Cordova and Powell. 
      • Mental illness scares me. Screaming or being yelled at. Fights and aggression. I sometimes feel I want to step in. I am being labelled as a “gentrifier”. My guests are being harassed. Someone exposed himself to a guest of mine. Psychopathic behaviour is uncontrolled.
      • Half a block into Hastings/Hawks: lots of sex trade. It attracts the Johns and drug use. 14-year old daughter needs to be picked up from the bus stop because she gets harassed on her short walk home. 
      • I feel unsafe when I confront drug users and troublemakers. It doesn’t seem to work to call police. The situation is escalating.
      • It is not always the lack of safety that is the issue, it is also certain activities happening in cars, in alley ways that are not a direct safety issue for my family and we don’t feel threatened by it but it’s not appropriate for my kids to witness. 
      • Scared of dogs without leash. I am asking owners to put their dogs on leash but I get yelled at for pointing this out. 
      • Recent rape in Oppenheimer Park. She was Indigenous, had disability, was walking home. We are still not doing a good job of protecting the most vulnerable women in our community.
      • Safety concerns around needling. Someone was injecting and threw the needle at me. Infectious nature of needles is a safety concern. Recommendation to contact Spikes on Bikes who install sharps containers in back alleys. 
    • The unknown/different can be very threatening. This community is a low-income community and has been for a long time. There is intense pressure for housing across the Lower Mainland, lack of treatment beds. Very complex issue. Involvement in sex trade and drugs to numb the pain and relieve the suffering. There are lots of drug users who want to help, they want to be involved in being good neighbours. But the onus is with those of us who are the middle class. We have the power and we need to build relationships. Drug users shouldn’t be dehumanised for being pulled in the back yard and accessing clinics from the back door (apparently Coastal Health explained that they designed the entrance to the Methadone clinic in the back alley “to protect the dignity and privacy” of the clients). Drug users are employed in harm reduction programs and want to be good neighbours. Need to have dialogue. Destigmatize this community.  Use the programs and services offered. For example, Downtown Strathcona Spikes on Bikes picks up needles but also refuse and garbage from drug user. They will talk to drug users in the back alley to use the sharps containers. Spikes on Bikes is a rapid needle-recovery programme, 8am-8pm. Employment program for drug users – low barrier for work entry, pick up refuse, fentanyl testing strips, Naloxone kits. Last year over 2 mio needles were dispensed, but picked up and recovered more needles than dispensed. The way we are currently treating our community members is not working. We need progressive social initiative and not a right-winged government to bring change. The only way to create safety is through relationships. 
    • Spikes on Bikes does a lot for its employees and those who benefit from the program. From a health care perspective (mental health worker), this program is great. But the community is mis-educated about what to do about their safety issues. Often there are solutions to the problems we face but we don’t not where to go for it. We want to educate ourselves about where to find the solution. 
      • Request to distribute Spikes on Bikes contact to SRA and contacts to other initiatives. 
    • One reason we’re having this conversation is because the Strathcona Community Policing Centre is about to become a reality. The SCPC was born and evolved in controversy. Some see it as a tool of division. A way to protect some of us from others of us. But can it be a tool of community? A way to bring us together rather than break us apart?  To promote mutual understanding of our different struggles? How can we do it?
      • What is the role of the CPC? Creating partnerships and relationships. There is not going to be more police officers or conventional safety officers. It is an organization, a location to coordinate community members to volunteer their time. Giving access to resources. Dog walkers equipped with vests to actively participate in community safety. It will likely be located close to Hastings, Princess. Need place with most access for community. 
      • I have seen the community morph and change. The CPC is bringing a safety lens to everything: policy, children, and health. We will resurrect the old CPC, but also take on board concepts of what we did in the safety office in the Downtown Eastside. This is safety for everybody. Not just for Strathcona residents. But also drug users and sex workers on the streets of Strathcona who are not safe. Policy changes need to happen. Our streets shouldn’t be the mental health centres of our city. People shouldn’t need to wait for weeks to get into treatment and worry about what is in the drugs they are addicted to. We need to work together to bring about change. We need to get kids off the street. 
      • When we get notified that a young Indigenous women is missing, we track them down, walk the streets, set up posters, aim to find out more information, interact with others on the street to get information. We need a more organised way to approach such situations. Concern for women to get trafficked. We want to be more safety-oriented with our youth, children and women. Our violence prevention team works with CPC and police to conduct workshops and to mobilize search teams quickly, and speed up documentation. We want to do this on a community-level that is non-intrusive. 
      • Do we anticipate a criminalizing of behaviour in response to CPC? Will it polarise our community more rather than bring us together? – It depends on how we will run the CPC. This is not about setting about a policing centre but about setting up a community initiative and making safety accessible to everyone – some people don’t have access to phones to report issues. The CPC will be lead in response to the community. Walking into police station is too scary for some. They can get safety concerns addressed in CPC. Also, non-emergency police number takes at least 15 minutes to get hold. We have a police officer stationed in CPC and are planning to report ASAP and follow up. We partner with neighbourhood groups. It’s an office for everyone. 
      • What’s the structure? – It is a safety office. There is a board of several members. In partnership with the police but run by the volunteers and the community and the staff. Staff train the volunteers (e.g. mental health training). Will be open 12-8pm, may be closed on Sunday. 
      • Does CPC offer training for people on how to approach people that have suffered from trauma? – Yes, we won’t send volunteers on the street without training. 
      • How can volunteers get involved? – We will start putting the word out through SRA. We hope to finalise location by next week. 
      • If need more resources on a community-level is there communication and connection with city hall to provide this support? – CPC is good at recording incidences that wouldn’t get reported. We will have this data analysed and support given based on that. 
      • The strength of our community will depend on how we interact with one another. The CPC will be a formalised way for this interaction. Platform for networking with those groups that can help. 
      • How does the CPC decide on the content it will deliver? How does it determine its community needs? What is the check-back with the community on meeting its deliverables? – There is a board. We want to be aggressively outreaching to community groups to capture the needs.
    • Palladin Safety 8am-4pm – private safety for local businesses. Wellness checks on people who suffer from dehydration, have fallen out of houses. Provide water and blankets. Not exactly outreach work through agency but support for businesses. Also pick up needles. They walk 12km a day. Also have access to vehicle. Community members have reported them to be disrespectful.
    • Safety can also be related to moving through our community, e.g. traffic and rail. People are living on/next to the tracks, cars rat running through the community. 
      • City is working on stopping cars from crossing through neighbourhood. CN is not collaborative. Speed watch can be organised by CPC. Conflicts with cyclists on Union. Data can be collected and decisions made based on that. 
    • Can we recommend/create policy that could be issued by SRA? E.g. can we put forward a motion for use of retractable needles that are employed in a non-supervised fashion? We can follow up on this policy. Can we pressure manufacturers to come up with a cheaper option? We used to have needle exchange when needles were expensive. 3 mio needles in those days in a year. They all came back and more. Distribution/recovery – needles have no longer a value. How about we put a “recycling fee” on needles – gives users an incentive to return. 
      • Portland Hotel Society and VANDU need to be contacted with our idea before putting forward a motion. Let’s have this conversation. 
      • We need to have community and SRA members to drive these ideas forward as the SRA council is not equipped to investigate the multiple motions in action right now. 
    • Back to the question on what the common ground in Strathcona is: The real challenges in the world right now emerge from the fact that there are less and less diverse communities. Strathcona is different – it is a real diversity we find in our community. The community has responded to this diversity with the common ground of empathy. We have empathy and care about our neighbours, even if they are yelling at us. This is a rare thing in our time. We need to care for our neighbours but also have a standard of behaviour we expect for them – it’s not mutually exclusive. 
    • Sugar Mountain Council wants to be responsible citizens. They want to know about issues they can help with. We need to have conversations – both ways. We want to be a healthy community that understands one another’s challenges. In the past, the SRA meetings have not been respectful. 
    • Example of Cedar Cottage safety meetings to address sex work on Kingsway. Lots of success because of mutual respect. One-on-one dialogue about our experiences. We need a smaller group for members of that community to feel safe and not out-numbered. Need a more intimate group to allow them to feel safe. Sex trade happens closer to residential groups because they feel safer.