New Westminster, BC – New Westminster City Council has approved a two-year organizational pilot project and strategy to address the overlapping crises of homelessness, mental health, and substance use. The pilot will focus on increasing immediate supports with the long-term goal of transitioning responsibility to senior levels of government.
The project is based on promising practices and lessons learned from other municipalities with the objective of advancing proactive, resilient and strategic organizational approaches that can be sustained long-term. The project will involve three inter-departmental staff teams which include:
- Crises Response Team – a new grouping of staff responsible for day-to-day crisis coordination and response, including outreach and support, addressing community requests, case management services, and providing referrals to Provincial teams.
- Operations Support Team - a group of existing City staff from engineering, fire, human resources, integrated services, and police supporting the new Crises Response Team.
- Policy Development and Advocacy Team – a group of existing City staff that continues lobbying senior levels of government for additional funding, resources, and supports needed to sustainably address the needs and issues associated with the three crises.
“New Westminster, like many communities, is facing the complex and inter-related crises of homelessness, mental health, and substance use. These crises have a profound impact not only on those directly suffering, but the community as a whole,” said Mayor Patrick Johnstone. “The City recognizes that the current responses to these crises are not doing enough and are straining our staff. We must implement a new people-centred approach that is more compassionate, proactive, responsive, and that requires a new focus and some new resources.”
The proposed pilot project will include extensive community engagement and involvement and will see the creation of two working groups with diverse representation. The implementation working group will include First Nations and Indigenous organizations, people with lived and living experience, and representatives from community and social service agencies. The advocacy working will include members from the business community and local residents.
“In order to respond to these three crises, we must structure our organization to be more innovative and nimble, as well as commit to continuous learning and adaption,” said Lisa Spitale, Chief Administrative Officer. “The formation of the three new staff teams will allow for dedicated focus and responsibilities while separating out day-to-day activities from policy development and advocacy work.”
“This is the work our community has been asking us to do” said Mayor Johnstone. “We have great partners in New West, and this approach will assure we are leveraging those supports to get better outcomes for everyone.”
Goals of the pilot project include enhanced relations with provincial bodies that have primary responsibility for addressing the three crises, the realization of a 24/7 shelter with 50 to 60 beds, a health connect and resource centre to address the needs of the unsheltered, and a supportive housing development with 50 to 60 units. To accomplish this, the City of New Westminster will work on establishing Memorandums of Understanding with BC Housing, the Fraser Health Authority, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, as well as ongoing engagement with First Nations and Indigenous organizations.
For more information on the City of New Westminster’s three crises pilot project, please visit www.newwestcity.ca/crises-response-project
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