Mayor Al McDonald says today’s roundtable meeting was a success and the start of something good for the city of North Bay.
The North Bay mayor held a three-hour closed session of more than 50 attendees from a number of local organizations to discuss issues including addiction, homelessness, mental health, discarded needles, and poverty.
“The fact that we were able to bring experts from 29 different organizations to the table I can tell the community that they are caring leaders that want to make a difference,” McDonald told the media after the meetings.
“They are knowledgeable, they know their stuff, they recognize that we all need to work together. This is going to be a bit of a long term process. We are going to have short meetings, long term strategies, but the message that we can take away from today is the experts are engaged and they want to make a difference and you saw that in the room today.”
BayToday heard from a local homeless woman who felt meetings like this will not help.
See related: Homeless woman to the mayor: 'the problem can't be fixed'
The mayor disagrees.
“There is hope, that is my message to that woman,” said McDonald.
“The individuals around that table care and they want to help and not just hear, but every one that is in that situation. There is going to be an opportunity to hear from those individuals at another meeting but first I want to convene a meeting of the experts to identify the gaps. But to those individuals that need our help, because we are humans, and we want to help other human beings and we care, and I think that was the message that I was hearing.”
Mary Davis helped chair the meeting. She is the Executive Director of Nipissing Mental Health Housing and Support Services
From her perspective, stable housing is a big concern.
“What we need is more barrier-free housing for people to be able to have housing regardless of circumstances. There probably is not enough supportive housing to access barrier-free housing. It is definitely needed,” she said.
Dr. Jim Chirico represented the North Bay-Parry Sound District Health Unit.
He says mental health and addiction is a complex problem with no one solution to it.
“You need both upstream and downstream approaches,” said Chirico.
“The upstream being more preventative where you try to prevent people from getting into the cycle of addiction issues and the downstream these people need help. They need to have the help to get the treatment with their addictions and their mental health issues.”
Davis will be responsible for taking in all the ideas. The parties will gather again for a similar meeting in November.