Community health and safety has been top of mind for Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. We know that you have invested a significant amount of time and resources in community efforts to improve the sense of safety in your neighbourhood, through the participation of community safety audits and walks or by events to animate our parks and open spaces.
Despite the significant efforts to improve our neighbourhoods, the impacts of systemic problems due to a lack of affordable housing, sufficient social and health supports for individuals living with mental health and addictions are taking a toll on our neighbourhood. As you know, these systemic challenges are felt most heavily in our downtown parks and streets.
An Important Dialogue
On November 15, 2017 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam hosted the first-ever Healthy Neighbourhoods Summit. Expert panelists from the local social service agencies, Toronto Police Services FOCUS team, and the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area presented on current findings, neighbourhood needs and the kinds of initiatives that can address the social determinants of health in our diverse neighbourhoods. Facilitated round-table discussions provide an opportunity for residents and stakeholders to voice concerns, understand complex social issues, and identify social services needed. Each table had the opportunity to present key learnings to the audience and together, we worked to identify critical social supports needed to create a healthy downtown Toronto.
Over 150 residents, businesses, and City of Toronto staff participated in facilitated round-table discussions on social determinants of health and needs for downtown Toronto
In the following weeks, Councillor Wong-Tam and the Ward 27 team will work to compile feedback and information gathered as a result of the Healthy Neighbourhoods Summit. We will produce a report-back on Summit outcomes that will serve as a center-piece in our work to advocate for increased investments in social services in downtown Toronto. We look forward to our continued work together in building a healthy, safe, and inclusive #HealthyDowntown Toronto.
Thank you to our community sponsors:
- Ryerson University
- Covenant House
- Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area
- Church-Wellesley Business Improvement Area
- Covenant House
- Toronto Public Health
- Toronto Police Services
- City of Toronto
Expert panelists discuss social determinants of health and the need for increased social services. We have willing partners in community, but not the financial resources.
Uppala Chandrasekera, M.S.W., RSW, Director, Public Policy, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
Uppala Chandrasekera is a social worker with over 15 years of work experience in the health sector, ranging from frontline work assisting individuals and families with mental health and addictions issues, to supporting mental health programming province-wide, and implementing the national strategy to address mental health across Canada. Currently, Uppala is the Director of Public Policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, where she provides leadership for public policy work in six programmatic areas, including: Addictions and complex care, Health systems development; Housing, employment and social determinants of health; Health promotion across the lifespan; Criminal justice; Equity and social inclusion. Uppala also serves on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and was recently appointed to the Toronto Police Services Board.
Pauline Larsen, Senior Economic Development Manager, Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (DYBIA)
Building on a background in economic analysis and journalism, Pauline has spent the past two decades working in the field of urban research, based first in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then in Toronto, Canada. In Toronto, she has focused on research and strategy work for clients in the not-for-profit sector and her range of professional interests include: urban revitalization and performance measurement; urban social issues; the Business Improvement Area (BIA) model of urban management and advocacy; resource development and strategic planning. She was appointed to the newly-created position of Senior Economic Development Manager in October 2013 and is responsible for economic research and analysis, economic development partnerships and initiatives, safe and inclusive programs and the DYBIA’s social enterprise, which generates fee revenues that are reinvested into the Downtown Yonge community. As part of her mandate to develop Safe & Inclusive Streets, she is involved with a number of programs that are founded on untraditional partnership, like the multiple award-winning Walkabout which pairs Aboriginal Elders and police officers to do street outreach downtown.
Constable Melissa Huntley, Neighbourhood Officer, Division 51 Lead FOCUS Officer, Toronto Police Services
Melissa Huntley worked as a Youth Worker for Kinark Child and Family Services at Syl Apps Youth Centre, a secure mental health and youth justice facility, for 7 years (2002-2009). In 2009, Melissa was hired by Toronto Police Service. In 2014, she was selected for the role of Regent Park Neighbourhood Officer. This position falls under the Community Response Unit and was implemented to develop and maintain relationships within the Regent Park Community. Melissa has been involved with the Downtown East FOCUS table since its inception in 2016 and was assigned as the lead Officer in February 2017.
Susan Davis, Executive Director, Gerstein Crisis Centre
Susan Davis is the Executive Director at Gerstein Crisis Centre in Toronto. Susan has over 25 years of experience in the community mental health and addiction field. She has been a leader in the development of services, partnerships and systems that recognize the social determinants of health and work collaboratively across sectors to better serve people dealing with mental health and addiction difficulties. Susan is committed to creating services and systems that consider the whole person, treat all people with respect and dignity and create opportunities for people to maximize their recovery.