Welcoming Streets Program in Belleville

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| Published , updated April 11, 2024

What is the Welcoming Streets program?

The Welcoming Streets program was started in June of 2021.

Its goal is to support individuals experiencing homelessness in the area and address concerns identified by business owners and the public. It assists with bridging the gap between business owners and the vulnerable population:

  • Reducing unnecessary calls to local police department 
  • Enhancing community safety 
  • Referrals to local housing and mental health/substance use supports
  • Fostering positive therapeutic relationships by promoting empathy and inclusivity
  • Raising awareness through community education

Modeled after the City of Guelph’s successful ‘Welcoming Streets’ program, the Downtown District/DBIA has partnered with several local organizations within the social service sector to form a Steering Committee to guide the process of implementing a 1-year Welcoming Streets pilot program in the City of Belleville.

Member agencies include Grace Inn Shelter, Salvation Army, City of Belleville, United Way, Hastings County Community & Human Services, Bridge Street United Church, Peer Support, Quinte Healthcare Corporation Crisis Intervention Centre, Community Development Council of Quinte, Hastings & Prince Edward Public Health and the Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre.

The program has 2 full-time staff, one outreach worker on the streets and one office worker administering the program:

  • Sara Behring, Welcoming Streets Program Coordinator (remote)
  • Dallis Hodgson, Welcoming Streets Steward

The Welcoming Streets program received the 2022 Advocacy and Policy Award from the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, of which the Belleville Downtown District BIA is a member.

The Belleville DBIA has been approached by 6 different municipalities about the program, including Peterborough.

Initiatives

No Trespass list

Our No Trespass Procedure has been modeled after No Trespass Policies that are being used successfully by the Quinte Mall and the Belleville Library. The adoption of a No Trespass Policy allows participating businesses to bar individuals who have engaged in concerning behaviour in one location from all properties that are listed on the ‘No Trespass’ list. To opt-in to the No Trespass list, contact our Welcoming Streets Steward at welcome@downtownbelleville.ca.

CAMSafe video/security camera registry

Belleville Police services encourages businesses to register their camera locations to a centralized database. This allows Belleville Police to access your account info only, not your security system as a way to investigate criminal activity. To register, visit https://belleville.camsafe.ca

Agent Status

Completing an Agent Status form confers upon the Belleville Police Services the same authority as the property and/or business owner(s), namely the authority to prohibit entry to the premises/property and/or remove any person who is prohibited entry. Agent Status gives Belleville Police
Services the ability to proactively patrol premises/properties without receiving a formal complaint by its owner(s).

In 2021, 20+ members of DBIA had Agent Status. In 2022, 30+ members had Agent Status.

Witness Impact Statements

If you or your staff witness an unpleasant, disruptive or illegal interaction in the Downtown District it is important to document the event and submit it to the Belleville Police Services and to the Belleville Downtown District office.

When to Call Welcoming Streets

The Welcoming Streets Program is accessible to all members, employees and visitors of the Downtown District as a way to establish relationships, navigate social service systems, educate, and provide crisis intervention support to vulnerable community members. Our Welcoming Streets
Steward is available during business hours, Monday to Friday and can be reached at 905-933-3755. For more detailed information about the program, contact welcome@downtownbelleville.ca.

When to Call 911

We are a growing urban centre and as a result, there are instances when you or your staff may witness an emergency situation or an illegal interaction. Please call 911 when this happens.

Feedback from community stakeholders

Youth Habilitation (Youthab)

Here is the feedback received from Jennifer Corelli (she/her), M.Ed., R.P., Administration & Community Services Manager of Youth Habilitation Quinte Inc:

What interactions or experience have you had with the Welcoming Streets program?

Frequently, our ICM staff and the staff at Welcoming Streets work closely together to assist unhoused clients with finding safe and affordable housing and with accessing necessary resources. Furthermore, as our YHQ and HHRC offices are located in the Downtown Belleville core, we have needed to connect with the Welcoming Streets staff on occasion for support in situations that do not require police intervention but do require assistance in deescalating vulnerable individuals to avoid further agitation or conflict.

Welcoming Streets has consistently provided generous support to our agency and clients, and continues to contribute not only to our organization, but to the entire Downtown Belleville community.

How effective is the program in supporting vulnerable community members?

The Welcoming Streets Program has proven to be extremely effective in aiding vulnerable members of our community. Through their outreach efforts, the Welcoming Streets staff have been able to establish a strong rapport and trust with vulnerable community members.

This connection and support has resulted in them being able to effectively handle and address a variety of situations that arise in the downtown area. In addition to their outreach efforts, the Welcoming Streets Program is also able to provide assistance and/or resources to individuals who may not actively seek out program staff on their own.

Should the program be expanded/reduced?

The expansion of the Welcoming Streets Program would bring significant benefits to our community.

The need for outreach and assistance, which the program currently provides, extends beyond the Downtown Belleville Core. Given the ongoing housing crisis in the Hastings County region, there is a high demand for the support offered by Welcoming Streets throughout the entire city and Hastings region.

If the program can expand to include other communities alongside the City of Belleville, it would greatly benefit all agencies and frontline staff working with vulnerable populations. This expansion would make additional assistance available to vulnerable community members not within the Downtown Belleville Core as the Welcoming Streets Program provides outreach and support services that many other community service agencies are unable to provide.

What changes would you make to the Welcoming Streets program?

Welcoming Streets has formulated a comprehensive strategy to effectively deliver much needed outreach services and support to the community. Furthermore, they continuously explore additional avenues to enhance the support they can offer.

A potential improvement to consider is the recruitment of additional frontline staff members who are dedicated to providing outreach support on behalf of Welcoming Streets Program. By expanding their team, they could extend their reach geographically and by offering their services 24 hours a day/7 days a week, making assistance more accessible and valuable to vulnerable individuals, agency partners, and the communities served.

CEO of Belleville Library

We have noticed an improvement in our public spaces and Sara has been doing an amazing job working with local clients and acting as a liaison between the library and members of the public who are experiencing homelessness and other challenges.

Trevor Pross, CEO Belleville Public Library and John M. Parrott Art Gallery

Maxima Security

As head of security at the Belleville Public Library, I can speak to the importance of Sara Behring’s work with us downtown. She fosters an important link that allows us to deal with vulnerable people in our area. Getting those people, the assistance they need, whilst allowing us to get to know those individuals. It’s a team effort, and Sara and the street Steward program provide a vital step in community outreach.

Jeff Bentley, Maxima Security

The program was backed by a letter of support from Belleville Police Chief Mike Callaghan as the program reduces the number of times police must be called into the downtown core to resolve issues which frees up officers for other matters.

What are the results of the program?

  • Calls from BDIA members made 280+ calls seeking assistance from the Welcoming Streets Steward
  • 14 Cameras registered with CAMSafe in 2022
  • 195 calls to Belleville Police Services avoided
  • 5 individuals directly housed by Welcoming Streets

Timeline

November 16, 2020 – letter from the Downtown District BIA requesting Council support for a new BIA initiative to be introduced in 2021 known as “Welcoming Streets”.

November 23, 2020 – City Council supports the initiative, allowing the DBIA to formally request funding through the County of Hastings.

February 10, 2021 – Hastings County funds pilot program with $70,300 through the Homelessness Prevention Program (formerly Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, CHPI), which is 100% provincially funded to fund through program through December 2022.

May 5, 2022 – Ontario BIA gives it the 2022 Advocacy and Policy Award

August 9, 2022 – Belleville asks Hastings County for consideration for funding the program for 2023.

August 10, 2022 – Belleville approves support for the funding and referred it to Hastings County for consideration of funding for 2023.

November 9, 2022 – Hastings County denies a grant application to fund the program for 2023 as it could not source government money for the program.

November 28, 2022 – Belleville funds the expansion of the program in 2023 to 2 full-time staff with $140,000 from the Tax Rate Stabilization Fund.

November 8, 2023 – Hastings County denies a grant application to fund the program for 2024.

December 11, 2023 – Belleville funds the program in 2024 with $140,000 from the Tax Rate Stabilization Fund.

Belleville Police Services Board applies to the Office of the Solicitor General for the funding of the program.

Belleville Police Services board secures grant funding for the program.

February 27, 2024 – Belleville removes D8-2 BDIA Welcoming Streets program from the 2024 Operating Budget, reflecting the change of funding source from the City’s Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund to a grant from the BPS board.

One-time downtown overnight security services funding of $33,000 is added to the operating budget, funded from the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund. Overnight security was previously being paid for by the DBIA.

DBIA got a grant from the police department to fund three welcoming streets [workers], they just got another grant from the Canandian Mental Health [Association] for $50,000 for another welcoming streets [worker], but the overnight security was always paid out of the DBIA, and because they’re stretching their dollar to have a staff person sort of look after all welcoming streets, they don’t have the funding to do the overnight security.

The merchants feel that it’s important to have overnight security downtown and not lose it. The DBIA is trying to get it over the City and they thought it was – I thought as the rep on it there was a good time because we don’t have to do the Welcoming Streets.

This is only a one-time funding, hopefully the Hub opens next year and maybe the demand for overnight [security] won’t be as bad, so this is just a one-year time funding.

Councillor Garnet Thompson

Welcoming Streets contact information

  • Phone: 905-933-3755, Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm
  • Email: welcome@downtownbelleville.ca

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