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Underpass encampment cleared

Social service agencies, hospital issue joint statement
For months, people have been camping out under the bridge on Algonquin Boulevard.

While officials cleared the encampment at the underpass, a joint statement calling for kindness was issued by a number of organizations. 

This morning, Timmins Police and city staff were out clearing the encampment where people have been staying for weeks on Algonquin Boulevard. 

In the wake of Timmins Mayor Kristin Murray issuing a statement yesterday saying the city's concerned about vagrancy, other agencies spoke up about the situation today. A joint statement was released by by Timmins and District Hospital (TADH), Canadian Mental Health Association Cochrane-Timiskaming (CMHA-CT), Porcupine Health Unit (PHU), Living Space and the Timmins Police Service.

RELATED: City addresses 'vagrancy', says city's concerned

Timmins Police Insp. Darren Dinel said they've been involved in community engagement efforts near the underpass for several weeks.

“We have heard the concerns from many different perspectives and we are working to address those concerns through a multi-faceted approach that leverages the expertise from a broad range of community stakeholders," he said in the statement.

"We have met local service providers regularly to discuss and develop a response to these issues, and we have been working cooperatively towards the same objectives. The complex issues associated with homelessness, mental health, and addictions are  not going to be solved overnight, but we will continue to hear the concerns of the community  and work together, as a community, to ensure everyone feels safe and respected.”

The agencies say they're working to connect people with appropriate services. 

CMHA is doing regular wellness checks as well as providing information on harm reduction and support services for short-term necessities, according to the statement.

“The difficult part of this work is that these are complex issues,” said Paul Jalbert, CMHA-CT executive director.

“Some of the misinformation out there is that many people experiencing homelessness chose to be there, and  that is not the case. Our teams work hard to continue building trusting relationships with these  individuals, taking the time to ensure that they have access to the most appropriate support  services for their needs.” 

PHU medical officer of health Dr. Lianne Catton said there are social economic factors that are often linked to trauma and racism that need to be addressed for homelessness and addiction.

"Just as local agencies have come together, in order for there to be any real solution, all partners, sectors and residents will need to work together to create a community of collaboration, caring,  and compassion for all," she said.

There has been a lot of work in recent years to address the opioid crisis in Timmins. 

This past summer, Safe Health Site Timmins — a safe injection site — was opened on Cedar Street North across from city hall. 

TADH manager of addictions and outpatient mental health said there have been significant positive changes to address the issue.

“Over the past two years, our community had one of the highest opioid-related death rates in the province and, in response, our service providers rallied together. As a community we have experienced significant loss and, as a community, we need do what we can to reduce the stigma around addictions. Some of the misinformation we’re seeing is that sites like the Safe Health Site Timmins (SHST) provide people substances, and make the drug crisis worse and this simply isn’t true. Sites like the SHST are vital to connecting clients with services and, most importantly, saving lives," he said.