Second of three parts about the work of the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative
A local group has come up with eight recommendations on how Nelson can better understand and support “those who rely on the street to survive.” Rona Park, co-ordinator of the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative, presented the recommendations to Nelson city council last month.
“This has been a fact finding mission,” Park told the Star after the meeting. “Now we have to figure out how we can make these things happen.”
The recommendations came partly from a survey of the street culture population conducted at the Salvation Army, ANKORS, Our Daily Bread, and the Stepping Stones shelter. That was part of a larger needs assessment the group has been conducting including a study of best practices elsewhere.
The presentation was for information only; the group did not ask city council for anything.
Of the eight recommendations, Park says three could be implemented relatively easily.
Offer mental health first aid training
The first is to provide mental health first aid training to all service providers, downtown business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership, city personnel such as by-law officers, parks workers, library staff, and police, and also make it available to the general public.
The training (12 hours or less) provides information and tools to help recognize common mental health problems. Participants are empowered to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, provide initial help, and guide a person towards appropriate professional help.
Create a crisis response team
The second recommendation is to implement a multi-disciplinary 24-7 crisis response team dedicated to being first responders to high-risk emergency calls regarding this population. This team would be comprised of street outreach workers, mental health/substance use personnel, police, and health-related personnel. This team would meet regularly to share critical information about the needs and concerns of certain street individuals and identify strategies for appropriate interventions.
Develop partnerships and protocols
The third recommendation is to create formal agreements amongst
“We understand many existing services are at capacity most of the time; however, the intention with establishing formal protocols is to move toward prioritizing this population as they are identified as some of the community’s most vulnerable residents,” Park says. “Early stabilization is critical for improving health and well-being and for avoiding the expensive, and often unnecessary, use of hospital and police services.”
The remaining five recommendations would, according to Park, take more planning and money:
• Implement a street outreach team (e.g. 9 to 9 daily) that would include the use of peers (people with experience of street life) and potentially a beat officer.
• Implement a one-stop drop-in centre which houses multiple services and supports (ideally open seven days per week).
• Explore the possibility of providing a temporary work options program.
• Pursue more affordable and supportive housing options and regional addictions treatment beds.
• Track the outcomes of all of the above actions.
Everything is an experiment
Park said anything the group does will be piloted for a year.
“And we will track the outcomes. Any one of them needs to be given a good year to be able to say whether it is going to make a difference. To do it all at once would be better, but that is unlikely. We will do it bit piecemeal with the resources we have.”
The group’s detailed presentation to council is attached to the online version of this story at nelsonstar.com.
Kozak: ‘extremely interested and encouraged’
After the meeting, Mayor Deb Kozak said council was “extremely interested and encouraged by the work of the group had done in a very short period of time. The approach they are taking is that in order to deal with community issues, you have to come together as a whole community. It is all of us working together. We need a collective approach. It is certainly not just a policing problem.”
Members of the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative
Vanessa Alexander, Housing Outreach, Nelson Community Services
Yvonne Borrows, Salvation Army
Paul Burkart, Chief, Nelson Police Department
Tina Coletti, Interim CIHS Manager, Mental Health, IHA
Marg Craig, Public Works, City of Nelson
Michael Dailly, City of Nelson Councillor
Cheryl Dowden, ANKORS
Tanya Finley, Downtown Nelson business owner (Finley’s Bar and Grill)
Stacey Lock, Homelessness Prevention, Nelson Community Services
Rona Park, Nelson Community Services – Project Lead/Chair
Jenny Robinson, Nelson CARES
June Stockdale, Nelson Library
Randy Thiessen, Acting Team Lead, Nelson Mental Health, IHA
Tom Thomson, Chamber of Commerce
Robin van Stolk, Health Outreach Worker, IHA
Jocelyn Carver, Kootenay Career Development Society & Nelson Business Association
Lori Fehr, School District #8
Maggie Haley, Clinical Supervisor, Nelson Community Services Centre
Sarge Hayden, Selkirk College Nursing Program Instructor
Laura Kearnes, ANKORS
Todd Kettner, School District #8
Chris Mason, Superintendent, BC Ambulance
Zak Matieschyn, Nurse Practitioner, IHA
Brigitte McDonough, Acute Care (Emergency at KLDH)
Grace Nakano, Nurse Practitioner, IHA
Phyllis Nash, Nelson Committee on Homelessness
Justin Pelant, Downtown Nelson Business Owner (Ted Allen Jewelers)
Jane Power, Manager, IHA
Bill Pritchard, Emergency room manager at KLDH
Jim Reimer, Kootenay Christian Fellowship (Our Daily Bread hot meal program)
Jonny Solerno, Nelson Youth Centre
Thalia Vesterback, Site Director, KLDH
Shirley Winfield, Forensic Psychiatric Services