Port Hope looks to create its own homeless strategy, mayor says

Following an interview on Consider This Live, Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson is putting pieces in place to create its own plan to help homeless.

Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson. Photo by Robert Washburn

Port Hope’s mayor wants council to integrate a response to help the homeless in its upcoming strategic planning session within the next few months, he said Thursday in an interview.

Mayor Bob Sanderson met with Green Wood Coalition Community Director David Sheffield recently to discuss ways in which the municipality can address the issue of homelessness. He hopes to form a committee to make recommendations to council regarding temporary emergency shelters within Port Hope, as well as other issues related to homelessness.

To ensure something is done, Sanderson said this initiative must be integrated into the municipality’s strategic plan, a document developed with the help of councillors, municipal staff, and the public.

“If we make it part of the strategic plan then it becomes a specific goal for the municipality. It is the document we return to as a way to measure our actions, so things get done,” he said.

While Sanderson hopes to get this done, he admits it does not meet the immediate needs of people seeking temporary shelter during the winter months.

Sanderson said he realized the critical nature of the situation during an interview on Consider This Live, part of the Drive Time on Northumberland 89.7 FM.

“It twigged something in my mind. So I called (Northumberland County Chief Administrative Officer) Jennifer Moore to get an update on what is going on in the county. I inquired about the status of Transition House and took it from there,” he said.

Transition House closed in December after an alleged violent incident at the Cobourg shelter, sending a staff member to the hospital. In mid-January, the county announced it was ending its $265,000 support of the stand-alone operation, saying it was going in a new direction. Since then, there is no word regarding the future of the emergency shelter, which remains closed.

Sanderson said he is aware the only temporary overnight shelter available to homeless people in all of Northumberland County is the Cobourg Police Station. It opens its lobby to those seeking shelter 24 hours a day, seven days per week. All municipalities offer respite warming centres for people during the day and evening when the cold weather is extreme.

There are no immediate plans to do something similar at the Port Hope police station, Sanderson said.

“Besides, it is not a very central location,” he said.

But places like the Jack Burger Sports Complex and other locations could be considered, he added. It will be up to the committee to make recommendations.
He also said there is much work to do to identify the specific needs of Port Hope. A homelessness study was done more than a year ago across Northumberland, which became the basis of the county’s strategy. Sanderson feels it is essential to get local statistics before proceeding.

Sanderson also believes the county may be able to play a role in Port Hope’s response.

“ I think we (council) were sort of looking to the county to find a solution,” he said. “I include myself in this. But I realized there must be something we can do as a municipality. Places like Brighton, Cobourg, and Port Hope are all major places where people go. I feel it is our time to take this on. We have a responsibility to address this.”

Two councillors have expressed interest in pursuing the mayor’s initiative, but Sanderson did not give any names, saying it was still in the early stages of discussion.

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