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City looks at expanding street outreach program to Jamestown

Pilot program’s service area may also extend as far north as the railroad tracks
Seattle Downtown Ambassadors
Sault Ste. Marie’s Downtown Ambassador program is based on a similar program that’s operated in Seattle since 1999

Sault Ste. Marie city council agreed Monday to look at expanding the Downtown Ambassador pilot program to Jamestown and other parts of the city in need of street outreach.

The program, a joint initiative of the city, the Downtown Association and Canadian Mental Health Association, provides directions to visitors and harm-reduction supplies and other assistance to the vulnerable.

It launched in mid-May and has been favourably received downtown, councillors were told.

Staff are trained to administer the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

"Sault Ste. Marie does not have dedicated street outreach for citizens who are homeless, mentally ill or struggling with addiction," said Ward 2 Couns. Luke Dufour and Lisa Vezeau-Allen in a resolution presented at Monday night's council meeting. 

"This population of people extends beyond the traditional boundaries of the Downtown Association Business Improvement Area."

The councillors asked that city staff prepare a report on the cost of expanding coverage of the one-year pilot program as far as Jamestown and north to the railroad tracks.

The added cost will then be discussed during next year's budget deliberations.

Dufour said the idea of expanding the pilot emerged from a meeting he held with concerned business owners and landlords in and around the James Street neighbourhood.

"As chair of Social Services, I've spent a lot of time dealing with encampments, homelessness, with trying to design the kind of homelessness prevention system that's going to really benefit our community, help out our most vulnerable citizens."

The Downtown Ambassador program has been received "very positively, much like the community wellness bus," Dufour said.

Coun. Vezeau-Allen said some of the Downtown Ambassador staff also work on the community wellness bus.

"They expressed interest to me in wanting to reach out to other areas," Vezeau-Allen said.

"I makes sense to go where the need is," she added.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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