- by Pat Kelly 

Read Part 1 of this essay here

In order for Owen Sound to improve economic, social, and cultural growth, we must first improve on the level of safety and continue to enhance the well-being of residents who are vulnerable due to social, economic or health related risk factors.

A key step in addressing issues is the Grey Bruce Community Safety and Well- Being Plan. The Plan was developed in partnership between local governments, social service providers and police services as part of a shared commitment to become a safer and healthier region.

This approach to planning recognizes that economic growth is tied to the complex risks to safety and well-being, and cannot be addressed in isolation by any one organization or sector. Too often, situations rooted in issues like mental health, addictions, a lack of safe and x, inadequate access to services or social isolation require an emergency response from the police, paramedics, hospital emergency department or other crisis-driven services.

Many calls to police are non-criminal in nature. These calls are often rooted in mental health or social issues, many of which show up in the behaviour of people on our main streets who have no where to go to get help but could be dealt with more effectively outside of the emergency response system.

Addressing the underlying causes of crime, poverty, homelessness, addictions and mental health, racism, inequity, means taking long-term, prevention approaches. This includes opportunities for employment, income, adequate housing, access to education and other supports that promote social and economic inclusion.

But having a plan is like having a map – the map is a piece of paper, its not the territory. Our downtown sidewalks and neighbourhoods, parks and waterfronts are the territory where we live, work and play and where our community demonstrates its values and behaviours – good and bad.

The plan to improve safety and wellbeing depends on having both the experts such as police, public health and social services on board –along with an army of everyday people who care about making our city the safest, healthiest place to live in Canada.

The solutions to the problems of improving crime, social and economic wellbeing in Owen Sound lies first and foremost in the Council’s need to prioritize and nurture a culture of citizen engagement - engagement that has proven to have a strong, positive impact on improving health and prosperity. Recent efforts by Owen Sound city staff to launch the Bang the Table tech platform are a start – and would have been helpful in recent discussions regarding the future of short-term rentals – but the platform wasn’t ready – hopefully it will be up and running before the election to enable stronger citizen participation.

Community engagement “the Owen Sound way” would bring together not only new tech platforms, but will include decision-makers, local communities, and stakeholders to talk about the region’s distinct character, its problems, where the region looks to go, and how it can best get there while retaining its uniqueness.

It will set directions that integrate knowledge about both urban planning and social planning and projects that drive further conversations on what was to be done, where, and how.

The challenge will be bringing to life these wonky issues. As an example, we talk about zoning as though it’s the most boring thing in the world, yet it determines where jobs are; who gets to live close to where they work; where the toxic waste dumps are and who has to move close to them; where the affordable apartments are; where the giant mansions are; how far an apartment has to be from a mansion — all of these mind-numbing rules that add up to how we live, who lives near us and how much it costs to live there. I can’t think of more fundamental questions.

The overarching goal of Owen Sound’s economic and social safety and wellbeing action plan is one that all citizens, community-based organizations and businesses can support: to improve the quality of life for all residents through a process of community outreach, collaboration, and building to help achieve a more equitable , safe and healthier Owen Sound.

Strategic priorities aligned with the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan are cross-cutting and include the following:

  • Leading the change by developing the leadership capacity for civic engagement with staff and elected officials.
  • Healthy OS – including a robust, long-term plan to recruit and retain a knowledgeable healthcare professional workforce
  • Thriving children and youth
  • Safe and resilient OS
  • Active and engaged seniors
  • Housing and caring for OS
  • Inclusive and accessible OS

These are big picture items. But voters recognize that community safety, economic and social well-being is a shared responsibility between residents, the City of Owen Sound, senior levels of government and community partners.

On Monday October 24th, when people in Owen Sound vote for City Council, they can elect candidates who can demonstrate how they will reconnect with our community, be more reflective of our community, and prioritize community safety and wellbeing.

This Wednesday June 29t at 7PM, I plan to join a group called Friends of Owen Sound at the Harmony Centre. The aim of the new group is to support the election of candidates for City Council that will lead the change to a safer, healthier and more prosperous city for all.

To find out more about the Friends of Owen Sound contact Michael Craig at [email protected]

Its time to make our fair city safe & sound.




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