‘We need a provincial plan’ says Bailey on homelessness

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Rainbow Park encampment

Heather Wright/The Independent

“We need a provincial plan.”

Those words are from Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey as he spoke to Lambton County councillors.
The county has been struggling to deal with homelessness, particularly in Sarnia, where up to 50 people are now camping at Rainbow Park.

The city has hired security and put up fencing in the area so children can use the park too, but Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says they can only do so much.

“We cannot go through this – all 440 municipal partners – alone. The province can coordinate some of those issues from mental health to the hospital issues to the others,” he said June 19.

“I would hope that you could follow up for us to see if the premier could move forward on that …you cannot have all these municipalities struggling… if you could advocate for us to have a cross section of leaders to come together with the cabinet with the government to deal with the encampment issue and the homeless issue and the mental health issue that would be of great benefit to all of Ontario,” Bradley told Bailey.

And the MPP seemed to agree.

“This is an issue that’s going across the province to some degree or other and it’s only going to exacerbate itself and get worse as time goes on.

“I see this, in my opinion, this is my opinion as a local taxpayer and also as the MPP, that we need a provincial plan.”

Sarnia Police put out an early morning fire at the encampment Friday
morning before dawn. No one was injured. It was deemed an accident.

Bailey also urged the county councillors to push the subject during August’s Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention.

After the MPP left, the homelessness issue came up again, with St. Clair Township Mayor Jeff Agar pointing out the local shelters are only half full. Lambton’s General Manager of Social Services, Valerie Colasanti isn’t sure what more can be done to encourage people to use the shelter system. “People are heavy into their addictions and when they’re staying on their own. They’re able to utilize drugs at any time during the day or evening.”

In the shelter system, there have to be some rules including restricting drug use and having security guards.

Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad says the county is doing the best it can in a difficult situation and it is time for senior levels of government to step up to help.

“It’s not a Lambton County problem, you know, it’s a worldwide problem and shame on our federal provincial government for not doing enough to look after this,” says Broad.