Prince Edward County welcomes new Community Safety and Well-Being Plan

(Gazette file photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

Prince Edward County has an updated Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (CSWB Plan) with the new plan having been officially endorsed by  County Council.

The Province of Ontario requires every municipality to develop a CSWB Plan. A CSWB Plan is a strategic document that guides a municipality in improving the safety, health, and welfare of its community. Municipalities must update or revise their plans every four years.

“An updated Community Safety and Well-being Plan for Prince Edward County is a welcome development for this community,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. “This plan for 2022-2025 reflects the new reality we face as we emerge from the global pandemic and continue on the path to recovery.”

Richard Gwozdowski, Chairperson of the Prince Edward County Police Services Board and Community Safety and Well-Being Committee provided some insight as to the objective of the CSWB Plan.

“Our vision is for The County to be a place known for vibrancy, inclusivity, and resiliency. There are gaps in service and barriers to safety and well-being in our community,” said Gwozdowski. “By exploring these gaps, we can create a healthier and more sustainable quality of life in the County. We commit to ensuring that all residents have access to safe, reliable services and programs, including support for our most vulnerable.”

Foundational commitments integral to the plan include: accessibility, anti-oppression, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

The plan provides a broad overview of the County’s safety and well-being goals and contains recommendations for actions to undertake over the next four years. More than 20 community agencies and representatives participated in developing these goals, with the aim to create goodwill, trust and partnership between community partners.

The CSWB Plan, while separated into five priority areas with broad objectives, includes key elements unique to the community.

As per the report, each priority area includes in-depth data and contextual information to inform the recommendations. It also includes a description of the recommended strategies and proposed approaches in each priority area.

Three priorities of the updates CSPB Plan are carried over from the last plan, those being senior support, poverty reduction and mental health/addiction. Two new priorities, domestic violence/intimate partner violence and housing/homelessness, were identified for the new CSBW Plan.

Goals to combat the housing crisis and subsequent homelessness are outlined in the report. They include: 1) Mitigate th

Mayor Steve Ferguson. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

e impact of the housing crisis through collaborative and innovative solutions and, 2) Reduce the number of calls for service for unhoused people.

Providing local context, the report touches on a dramatic rise in housing costs over the past decade, whether that be rental housing or those for sale.

“Housing costs have increased dramatically in the County, rising over 300 per cent in the last decade, and 200 per cent in the last two years. This is due to many factors including the proliferation of short-term accommodations, second home buyers, low housing supply and high demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the CSWB Report.

The report contrasts the sharp increase in housing cost with the relatively slight increase in household income. As per the report, the after-tax household income rose just 21 per cent from 2015-2020.

Goals pertaining to improving support for seniors are to: 1) Reduce fraud victimization of seniors. 2) Increase mobility access for seniors in The County. 3) Support independence, social connection and financial security for seniors

Providing a regional context, the report highlights an increase in seniors being defrauded with 149 incidents of fraud against seniors in 2021 alone. This number is up 71 per cent from the seven-year average.

Another important objective outlined by the new CSWB Plan is increasing seniors’ mobility-a challenging task in a geographic region as vast as the County.

Poverty reduction goals include: 1) Increase access to existing financial and social supports for people living in poverty. 2) Coordinate between those supports to achieve better outcomes for residents living in poverty.

It is important to note the CSWB Plan recognizes poverty as being an intersectional issue-one intrinsically linked with other issues outlined in the plan. While there are many issues that contribute to poverty, food insecurity is one highlighted by clients of the Prince Edward Learning Centre’s (PELC) Benefits Screening Programing with 85.7 per cent of those polled reported experiencing food insecurity or struggling with the high cost of groceries.

“A survey conducted with clients of the PELC Benefits Screening program suggested that food insecurity was a major concern. 28.7 per cent of clients said they do not have enough food to eat including fresh fruits and vegetables. 39.6 per cent said they “sometimes” do not have enough. 85.7 per cent were experiencing food insecurity or struggling with the high cost of groceries,” according to the report. “The same survey indicated that 48.2 per cent of clients were struggling with meeting basic needs. 47.6% were struggling with the high cost of utilities.”

Mental Health and Problematic Substance Abuse goals include: 1) Reduce harm related to problematic substance use. 2) Reduce the number of mental health-related calls for service.

The report points to a decline in mental health among county residents with a marked decline in that of youth. At the same time, there has been an uptick in the use of dangerous substances, such as opioids. As noted by local first responders, there has also been an increase in hoarding.

Goals relating to reducing domestic violence and intimate partner violence include: 1) Reduce harm related to domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

The report emphasizes the impact of domestic violence on both individual and community health.

For a copy of the new CSWB Plan, please visit: https://www.thecounty.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/2022-2025-Community-Safety-and-Well-being-Plan.pdf