Nelson street culture group makes eight recommendations

Mental health first aid training for everyone, a crisis response team, and more...

Rona Park

Rona Park

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 all community and health service providers, police, downtown businesses, the library, recreation, literacy, and employment services that would ensure a consistent, immediate, and appropriate response to those in this population attempting to seek services and supports.

“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.”

Other recommendations

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

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